Online gambling trade body the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has published its latest study ‘Consumer Protection in EU Online Gambling Regulation’, outlining significant all-around failings in consumer protections across EU member states.
The study is authored by Dr Margaret Carran of City University London and reveals an un-harmonised and unequal marketplace with regards to online consumer protections which should be in place to safeguard player transactions and engagements.
In its review of current standards, the EGBA monitors whether key principals of the ‘European Commission’s Recommendation 2014/478/EU’ had been implemented across member states focusing on the provisions of – customer verification, protection of minors, social responsibility measures, best practices and gaps within operating frameworks.
Publishing its latest report, the EGBA states that the European Commission’s lead 2014 objective of ‘protecting all online gamblers in Europe’ has not been achieved as a mandate, due to substantial divergence in member state marketplace requirements with regards to underlying consumer protections.
Updating the market, Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the EGBA, explained: “Because online gambling in Europe is regulated at national level, the level of consumer protection provided to players varies depending on where they reside in the EU – and this is entirely inadequate for what is an inherently borderless digital sector.”
“Guidelines have proven insufficient and we call on EU policymakers to act by introducing mandatory rules to ensure there is a consistently high-level of consumer protection and uniform safety nets for all online gamblers in Europe.”
Key findings in the EGBA study detail that since 2014 only Denmark has implemented the EC player protections recommendation/guidelines fully.
On player verification, at present 22 member states require customer identities to be verified upon application to open an online gambling account.
Protecting minors, all EU member states that allow online gambling services impose a minimum age requirement, with the 22 states setting a uniform age restriction of +18-years of age.
Nevertheless, the EGBA details that guidelines remain unequal with regards to advertising practices, where only 13 member states have implemented ‘no underage gambling’ signs to be displayed across advertising/marketing content.
At a social responsibility level, whilst the majority of member states (23) have enforced that online gambling operators oblige a self-exclusion player function. The EGBA finds that operators are left unsupported by a lack of established self-exclusion registers (14-only) across member states.
Furthermore, online gambling responsibility frameworks are hindered by the fact that no EU member state ‘automatically refers at-risk gamblers to health group organisation or treatment centres upon self-exclusion’.
In its report summary, the EGBA further outlines that the European Commission has failed to deliver an appropriate review of online gambling safeguards within member states that was meant to be processed by January 2017.
Concluding – “The study attributes this failure to the voluntary, non-binding nature of the guidelines and concludes that mandatory EU rules are needed to ensure a uniform, high-level of consumer protection for online gamblers in Europe”.