The City Law School’s Dr Margaret Carran has carried out a follow-up study regarding online consumer protection offered to gamblers across EU Member States.

A follow-up study undertaken by The City Law School’s Dr Margaret Carran into online consumer protection offered to online gamblers across the EU demonstrates that while high-level convergence of online gambling regulations has started to emerge, specific provisions continue to vary across EU Member States.

646524Dr Carran carried out this follow-up study to a project undertaken in 2018 which reviewed the extent to which countries have implemented European Commission Recommendation 2014/478/EU.

The original review, Consumer Protection in EU online gambling regulations, examined the national implementation of selected key provisions of the European Commission Recommendation on the Principles for the Protection of Consumers and Players of Online Gambling Services and for the Prevention of Minors from Gambling Online.

The Commission Recommendation 2014/478/EU aimed to encourage a uniform level of protection to European players through the voluntary introduction of common principles addressing players’ identification requirements, the prevention of minors from gambling and social responsibility measures. In the original study, Dr Carran found that although the EU recommendation has contributed to better consumer protection in many jurisdictions, it has not achieved consistency across all Member States.

However, some significant developments have taken place over the course of the last three years. Globally, the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly increased awareness of mental health issues generally. More locally: The Netherlands has now removed their online gambling prohibition and created an online gambling licensing regime from 1st October 2021; Germany introduced their new 2021 regulations; Sweden implemented their already pre-existing plans to liberalise their gambling market; and the UK has formally left the European Union.

Some additional progress has further been made in other jurisdictions regarding their social responsibility and safer gambling measures, and some States have further tightened their overall regulatory frameworks.

Therefore, the purpose of the follow-up study is twofold. In the main, this study aims to re-examine the regulation of online gambling in the EU against selected provisions of the Recommendation to evaluate if any reforms or updates have been implemented between 2018 and 2021. In addition, the study collected further evidence to complement the existing set of data with new insights.

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Dr Carran found that the overall position in 2021 remains broadly the same as it was in 2018 despite some material developments that have occurred in some Member States. High-level provisions are starting to converge more consistently but the specific regulatory details continue to diverge.

While more States implemented the EU Commission Recommendation’s proposals regarding the creation and maintenance of national self-exclusion registers and the requirements to display a ‘no underage gambling’ sign, five more States than before prohibit temporary accounts. This runs contrary to the Recommendation.

It is therefore unlikely that full convergence of online gambling regulatory frameworks will occur without pan-European mandatory intervention.

Key 2021 findings

Players’ identification and verification requirements

  • 13 jurisdictions have designated electronic databases that gambling operators should use to verify their customers. Designated databases must be used in 2 Member States and all other jurisdictions also permit alternative methods.
  • All Member States with online gambling regulations require operators to collect full name and date of birth/age of prospective customers. All except 3 Member States also require the collection of a residential address. 12 Member States further prescribe the collection of either an electronic email address or telephone number, or both
  • Temporary accounts are not permitted in 14 States.

Minors’ protection

  • 17 Member States have a legal requirement to display a ‘no underage gambling sign’ on gambling advertising. This represents an increase of 5 States over the 2018 position.

Safer gambling principles

  • Self-exclusion schemes have to be offered to customers in all but one jurisdiction.
  • 18 Member States require operators to allow players to set up financial and time limits on their gambling. Further 6 Member States required operators to allow players to set up deposit limits.
  • 16 Member States have established national self-exclusion registers. This represents an increase of 3 Member States over 2018 position.

Treatment support

  • All jurisdiction but one requires gambling operators to display contact details and information about problem gambling helplines on their website. In the jurisdiction where this is not required, the information has to be included in the gaming agreement between the player and the gambling operator.
  • 11 Member States prohibits sending specific gambling advertising to self-excluded customers.
  • In 11 Member States, self-exclusion triggers obligation to provide the player with contact details of treatment centres and available support.

Enforcement

  • The most common regulatory sanctions available to regulators are administrative fines, suspension/revocation of a license and warnings.

The study was commissioned by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).

Full information about the original study and its findings can be found here.

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