17 February 2009

EGBA: Online gaming and betting industry sends sports integrity message to the EU

Licensed online operators underline the traceability and transparency of the internet to safeguard the integrity of sports

At the EGBA’s ‘Responsible Gaming Day: Integrity & Sport’ event at the European Parliament today, key stakeholders called on the EU to make fact-based decisions when addressing the role of the Internet in sports integrity.

The event, in its second year at the European Parliament in Brussels, was attended by MEPs, the EU Czech Presidency, regulators, academics, representatives from the sporting world (UEFA, FIFA) and leading industry figures. Delegates discussed the role of the Internet as a tool to improve consumer protection and fraud prevention, with a particular focus on the field of sports betting integrity.

Norbert Teufelberger, Chairman of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) said: “Experts made it clear today how the Internet can be used for transparency, prevention and integrity purposes in the gaming and betting industry”.

With one of the morning sessions addressing the concerns around online problem gaming, Prof. Dr. Howard Shaffer from the Harvard Medical School, stressed: “The internet allows us now to scientifically study the actual gaming behaviour of players rather than rely on what they say or remember. The findings have shown us that the overwhelming majority of players gamble online in a very moderate and mild way”.

With the afternoon session focusing on the connection between integrity and sports, Norbert Teufelberger added: “The discussion today has shed more light on the various risk factors and respective responsibilities of the different stakeholders in the sport chain to maintain integrity”.

Christofer Fjellner, conservative MEP from Sweden, added: “Today’s experts showed that the Internet offers more possibilities rather than less in terms of preventing fraud and match fixing”.

All relevant sports stakeholders stressed in any case the need for greater cooperation and shared responsibility. This was echoed by Paul Scotney, Director Integrity Services and Licensing of the British Horseracing Authority “Keeping the sports clean can only work if there is meaningful cooperation between the sports sector, the regulators and the betting operators”.

Khalid Ali, Secretary General, European Sports Security Association (ESSA) then clarified how existing tools provided by the sports betting industry are helping sport federations maintain the highest standards of sporting integrity: “Our early warning alerts mean that we can work hand in hand with sports regulators and prevent the possibility of sport manipulation. The information provided to the sports federations is free of charge, with all the costs being borne by the online operators that are members of ESSA.”

You can find more details of the event on: www.ResponsibleGamingDay.eu

16 February 2009

EGBA hosts second Responsible Gaming Day at the European Parliament

Expanded 2009 event to focus on Integrity & Sport

Following on from a highly successful inaugural event in 2008, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) is hosting a second ‘Responsible Gaming Day’ at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, 17 February. The event aims to facilitate a major EU policy discussion, with this year’s theme focusing on the key gaming issues of ‘Integrity and Sport’.

The ‘Responsible Gaming Day: ‘Integrity and Sport’ will be an opportunity for public and private sector stakeholders to examine the key issues of integrity in gaming, sport and bookmaking ethics and how to tackle potential fraud within the sports betting sector. The issue of integrity remains a top priority for private European online operators, who are committed to ensuring a highly secure gaming environment for their customers.

The ‘Responsible Gaming Day: Integrity & Sport’ will features keynote speeches by the Czech EU Presidency, Norbert Teufelberger, EGBA Chairman and Co-CEO of bwin, MEPs from Sweden, the UK, the Netherlands and Petter Nylander, CEO of Unibet. This year’s programme addresses the key issues around online gaming, ethics in sports bookmaking and the tools and safeguards available to tackle risk in sports betting. It will include prominent speakers from the European Commission, private and state-owned industry, academia and leading sporting associations and clubs.

“Our second Responsible Gaming Day comes at time when online gaming and related sporting issues are being debated at the highest levels of the EU” said Norbert Teufelberger, Chairman of the EGBA. “We aim to encourage all parties to enter into dialogue to ensure the best practice in the field of responsible gaming informs modern EU policy developments.”

You can find more details of the event on: www.ResponsibleGamingDay.eu

For further information or comment please contact:

Sigrid Ligné
+32 (0) 2 256 7527

13 February 2009

Online gaming and betting: Proposed changes to Finnish lotteries act raise European Commission concerns even further

Brussels, 12 February 2009

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomes the European Commission’s decision to issue formal Comments (1) against the proposed changes to the Finnish lotteries act. These changes, if implemented, would increase the extent of the breach of EU law that is already the subject of an EC infringement procedure.

The European Commission has already objected to the existing Finnish gaming legislation back in March 2007 when it issued a “Reasoned Opinion” the last procedural stage before a referral to the European Court of Justice.

The new draft provisions introduce even further restrictions on indirect marketing of gambling services for operators without a Finnish license, as well as fines and prison sentences of up to two years for both media and online gaming companies operating or marketing such activities. These additional restrictions are, however, not aimed at enhancing consumer protection in a consistent and systematic manner as they will not apply to the Finnish government’s own gambling activities which will still be allowed to conduct extensive and aggressive marketing campaigns. RAY (the Finnish Slot Machine Association) has even announced its intention to launch an internet poker site later this year.

According to Sigrid Ligné, EGBA Secretary General: “This shows all too clearly that the Finnish authorities have for the past two years - during which the Commission has been delaying Finland’s referral to the ECJ - enhanced their protectionist legislation rather than removed it”.

She concludes that: “The rights of EU licensed gaming and betting operators as well as those of Finnish newspapers and media have been ignored for too long and the situation is only deteriorating. The Commission’s patience has clearly not paid off. We now call on the Guardian of the Treaty to defend our rights and to bring Finland to the ECJ.”

The Finnish changes to the lotteries act were notified to Commissioner Verheugen’s services and Member States under Directive 98/34/EC in November 2008. The notification procedure is aimed at preventing Member States from creating new barriers to the internal market freedoms by giving the opportunity to the Commission and Member States to evaluate the content of a draft law before it is adopted.

(1) Comments issued by the European Commission in the context of the notification procedure mean that it considers that the text submitted raises issues or requires further details for clarified interpretation.

For further information on the Commission notification procedure, please see:

For further information or comment please contact:

Sigrid Ligné
+32 (0) 2 256 7527

About EGBA:

The EGBA is an association of the leading European online gaming and betting operators Bet-at-home.com, bwin, Digibet, Expekt, Interwetten, PartyGaming and Unibet. EGBA is a Brussels-based non-profit making association. It promotes the right of private gaming and betting operators that are regulated and licensed in one Member State to a fair market access throughout the European Union. Online gaming and betting is a fast growing market, but will remain for the next decades a negligible part of the overall European gaming market in which the traditional land based offer is expected to grow from € 85 Billion GGR in 2008 to € 93 Billion GGR in 2012, thus keeping the lion’s share with 88,1% of the market. Source: H2 Gambling Capital, January 2009.


06 February 2009

Court of Appeal of Versailles orders access to the Reasoned Opinion and the hearing of the Secretary General for European Affairs

Online Gaming and Betting/ Unibet-MrBookmaker case: The Court of Appeal of Versailles orders access to the Reasoned Opinion and the hearing of the Secretary General for European Affairs

The access to the Reasoned Opinion, previously refused by the instructing judge, has been requested by the defendants for months as a key piece of evidence. This confidential document lists all the violations of EU law that the European Commission holds against the French gambling legislation, in particular with regard to the Française de Jeux and PMUs monopolies on online sports and horse betting.

The Court of Appeal of Versailles today issued long awaited decisions in the criminal proceedings initiated in 2007 against Petter Nylander, CEO of the online gaming company Unibet, listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange and holding licences in Italy, Malta and the UK, and Didier Dewyn, former CEO of Mr Bookmaker.

By deferring its judgement allowing the litigants to have access to the Reasoned Opinion addressed by the European Commission to France on June 27, 2007 (1) and seeking to hear for the first time in this case, a high civil servant, Gilles Briatta, Secretary General for European Affairs, the Court of Appeal reaffirms existing doubts regarding the compatibility of the French gaming legislation with European Law.

EGBA welcomes these decisions as an important development in the cases against Petter Nylander, Didier Dewyn and other European CEOs, who have been subject to arrests - including the use of an European Arrest Warrant – and indictments.

According to Sigrid Ligné, Secretary-General of EGBA, “These decisions raise once more the fundamental question of the legal base of these criminal proceedings. The infringements the European Commission listed in its Reasoned Opinion against the French Law shall also allow it to evaluate the compliance of the forthcoming draft bill with European law.”

The decisions follow the judgement of the Court of Appeal of Versailles dated January 18, 2008 in the proceedings engaged against Didier Dewyn, which requested additional information regarding the compliance of the French Law with EU Law and in particular access to the Reasoned Opinion addressed by the European Commission to France.

EGBA recalls that doubts regarding the French legislation’s compliance with European law have not only been voiced by the European Commission, but have also been confirmed by the Court of Cassation on July 10, 2007, by the State Council on May 9, 2008 and finally by the French Government itself in the context of the announced reform of the gambling law. To maintain an indictment based on the alleged infringement of such legislation would imply accepting the concept of preventive indictment, which is impossible under French law.

The EGBA recalls that these decisions come at a time when the European Commission has been waiting for 21 months for a new French bill which is expected to put an end to the multiple infringements of EU law and in particular to the “criminal sanctions [that] have been threatened or imposed on the chief executives of sport betting companies licensed in other Member States” (http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/07/909&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en). If the draft bill is not formally notified to the European Commission services in the shortest timeframe possible, the European Commission may move to the contentious stage of the infringement proceedings and refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

press release of EGBA European Gaming & Betting Association