IS THE CLOSURE OF INFRIGEMENT PROCEDURES ADOPTED BY THE JUNCKER COMMISSION A SETBACK FOR THE INDUSTRY?
On December 7th, the EU-based gambling operators faced the unexpected challenge as the European Commission, without further action, has officially closed all the pending infringement procedures involving gambling-related complaints and their respective legal entities against a number of Member States.
The rationale for this decision is derived from the strategic approach of Juncker Commission to reach a more prioritized, strategic and effective commitment to the functioning of the Internal market and the applicability of the EU law, while simultaneously weighing public and private interests. The decision can be understood as logical continuation of the practice set out by the EUCJ, which was, in its judgments, repeatedly recognizing and legitimizing the Member States’ sovereign rights to restrict the offer of gambling services where necessary to protect public interest objectives such as the protection of minors, the fight against gambling addiction and the combat of fraud.
According to the EU law, the Commission itself has an important part of the responsibility for securing continuous rule of law, and it is authorized to initiate infringement proceedings whenever assessed that a Member state has breached Community law. If the issue in question remains unresolved or the Member State fails to offer a satisfactory explanation, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice. Therefore, it has become apparent that gambling services are not amongst priorities of the Commission in using the infringement powers given with the aim to promote the EU Single Market. The decision takes place amid increased controversies raising from the growing number of undisputedly unfavourable national regulatory provisions throughout Europe, with some EU Member States included.
The Commission has, instead, once again urged the Member States to modernise their national online gambling legal frameworks, induce a more strengthened cooperation between national gambling regulators, channel more efficiently the citizens’ demand for gambling from unregulated sources to authorised and supervised websites, and to ensure full tax chargeability of the operators. In this effort, however, the Member States are promised the full support of the Commission and of the Union as a whole.
It remains to be seen how helpful this decision will be for the future of our Industry, given the cross-border character and the intersection of gambling policies with the broad number of the consumer rights sub issues exceptionally relevant to all the Union’s stakeholders, including the projects whose aim is strengthening of Digital Single Market, as well as the abovementioned priorities related to anti-money laundering policies and combating sports-related frauds.