EGBA: EU states closing gaps on consumer protection but policy splits remain visible

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has lauded progress with regards to consumer protection across 10 EU member states, but maintains that ‘gaps’ remain.

Citing the results of a study by the City, University of London (CUL), the Brussels-based trade association highlighted post-2018 developments in the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the Netherlands in particular, with the latter having initiated a self-exclusion programme in line with the launch of its KOA online market in October.

The study in question examined consumer protection procedures across the EU, including know your customer requirements, safer gambling initiatives, child protection and treatment support, assessing whether these rules are becoming more coherent across the union or if differences remain.

Concerning safer gambling, the study found that only two EU member states do not require operators to offer self-exclusion tools to customers on top of national self exclusion schemes – the latter of which has been adopted by 16 member states, with ‘nearly all’ accessible via websites.

Additionally, 18 member states require online betting operators to offer their customers the ability to set deposit limits and time limits. However, it was noted that self-exclusion duration requirements vary across the region, and some countries do not prohibit companies from sending gambling advertising to self-excluded individuals – although this is mandatory in 12 states.

“We welcome the progress made in strengthening the consumer protection rules in EU member states,” stated Maarten Haijer, EGBA Secretary General.

“In several areas, regulatory principles are converging, but there is increasing fragmentation in how the rules are implemented and this creates a complicated compliance and enforcement map for Europe’s gambling regulators and operators, while evidently also not benefiting the consumer.”

Identifying progression on KYV initiatives, EGBA noted that the number of member states which had prohibited temporary accounts had doubled from seven in 2018 to 14 in 2021. Meanwhile, it is now a requirement across the union for operators to collect the full name, age and birth date of all potential customers, and all but three require residential addresses. 

Likewise, five more member states enforce the use of a ‘no underage gambling sign’ on gambling advertising as an initiative to safeguard minors, with 17 now maintaining the requirement. 

However, with regards to problem gambling, 11 states require operators to provide self-excluded customers with problem gambling helpline and treatment centre contact details.

Finally, enforcement methods remain fairly cohesive throughout the EU, with the most common tools consisting of fines, licence supervisions and revocations, whilst 16 nations have established independent gambling authority and all member states have some form of governmental structure with regulatory responsibility for gambling.

Overall, the study summarised that the overarching EU trend with regards to consumer protection has seen the adoption of similar approaches throughout the block, but ‘significant differences’ remain in the development and implementation of national rules, and some rules concerning online gambling are absent in some countries.

Promoting the benefits of a united approach to consumer protection, Haijer concluded: “A more standardised regulatory framework would surely benefit all. While regulations and enforcement are extremely important, the study also highlights that more could be done to strengthen prevention measures and ensure that those who are affected by harm are signposted to relevant helplines and treatment centres.”

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