The Digital Service Act under consideration
The European Lotteries Association (EL) has asked the members of an EU committee to amend the EU Digital Services Act currently under consideration. This is because they want the committee to remove the suggestions that individual countries of the EU will not be able to interfere with the freedom to provide online gambling services.
The original 2020 version of the Digital Services Act did not mention online gambling specifically. There is now a new compromise text at the beginning of the Act that has appeared, however.
The new compromise text states: “The applicable national laws should be in compliance with Union law, in particular including the charter and the treaty provisions on the freedom of establishment and to provide services within the Union in particular with regard to online gambling and betting services.”
This wording is interesting, as it implies that individual nations will not be able to intervene with operators based in EU countries like Malta from accepting customers from Europe.
Dutch crackdown on unlicensed operators
Recently, the Netherlands attempted to crack down on unlicensed operators from accepting Dutch customers, rather than any operators who were specifically targeting the country. Several operators, including brands such as Entain, Casumo and LeoVegas, immediately responded by blocking customers from the Netherlands. You can read our Casumo review to see what Dutch customers are now missing out on.
Sweden looks like it might soon follow the example set by the Netherlands. A report from the Swedish Ministry of Finance recommended this approach, stating that it would ease enforcing gambling laws.
EL director general Arjan van ’t Veer, however, clearly disagrees with the approach that the EU have taken to the issue. Mr van ’t Veer has signed a letter from the EL to the EU’s Working Party on Competitiveness and Growth that makes a passionately argued case that gambling is different to other areas of economic activity and that its specific mention is “misplaced”.
The letter stated: “Gambling is also an activity of a peculiar nature given the considerable moral, religious and cultural differences across the EU Member States, as well as the risks they entail in terms of potential addiction and criminal use.”
Nations’ laws protect customers
EL did acknowledge that while certain freedoms to provide services do exist “in principle” in the gambling sector, individual countries should have the right to curtail or restrict gambling activities in their own territories, based on specific local public interest.
Van ’t Veer’s letter went to state that there was an implication in the new text that the regulations on illegal content imposed by individual nations were not always in compliance with EU law.
“Whereas there are definitely restrictions on the freedom to provide online gambling services in most Member States, these national laws aim to combat crime and fraud and to protect consumers,” van’t Veer added.
It will be interesting for fans of virtual sports betting and other forms of online gambling in the EU to see how the situation unfolds.