07 March 2008

EGBA: European Commission opposes payment blocking in France

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomes the European Commission’s detailed opinion against the French draft decree on gaming payments. The draft intends to oblige French financial institutions to block payment orders from online gaming operators listed by the French authorities, even those that are fully licensed, regulated and based in the EU.

Sigrid Ligné, EGBA Secretary General said: “Today’s action consolidates the Commission’s position that unjustified payment blocking in our sector clearly contravenes EU law. We welcome the Commission’s action and hope that this will send a clear signal to other EU and EFTA Member States that such proposals will not be tolerated”.

The French draft decree is the second of two decrees, drafted under the 2007 Delinquency Act, which attempt to erect technical barriers to further protect the French gambling monopolies that are already the subject of separate EU infringement proceedings. The first draft decree, notified in April 2007, sought to oblige Internet Service Providers to discourage consumers from accessing websites others than those operated by the French gaming monopolies: Francaise des Jeux and PMU.

That draft decree was never adopted following a detailed opinion issued by the European Commission last July. Today’s decision is a timely reminder that restrictions on the free movement of capital and payments, as set out in Article 56 of the EC Treaty, are not acceptable. Similar restrictions are currently being considered in Germany, Norway and the Netherlands; they are already in place in the United States. As demonstrated in the U.S experience “such restrictions are difficult to implement, easy to circumvent, inefficient and foster the growth of an underground market” added Sigrid Ligné.

Today’s Commission detailed opinion extends the standstill period of non-adoption until 31 March 2008, during which time France cannot adopt its draft decree. If France then decides to adopt the text despite the Commission warnings, the Commission can immediately launch infringement proceedings.

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