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John Penrose: Respect Member States' Rights

Criticising calls for “Europe-wide harmonised” regulation, British Minister for Tourism & Heritage John Penrose has urged the European Union to “respect” each member’s right to regulate online gambling at the state level.

Addressing a debate organised by The Parliament Magazine and the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), Penrose said: “In the UK we have light touch regulation and an open market but member states such as Poland and Portugal have more conservative views on gambling and their legislation is more restrictive.”

“These differences have deep roots and spring from fundamentally different religious traditions, cultural attitudes, legislative styles and approaches to managing the always-fuzzy dividing line between things which are harmless and enjoyable for the majority of the population but potentially seriously harmful for a small minority.”

Licensing Changes

On July 14, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) announced reforms to the Gambling Act of 2005. Gaming concerns will now have to obtain a licence from the Gambling Commission to advertise and operate in the United Kingdom, which is the largest regulated poker market in the world. Operators in whitelisted jurisdictions like the Isle of Man and Alderney will receive “an automatic transitional licence.”

“The current system for regulating remote gambling doesn’t work. Overseas operators get an unfair advantage over UK-based companies, and British consumers who gamble online may have little or no protection depending on where the operator they deal with happens to be based. We will create a level playing field, so all overseas operators will be subject to the same standards and requirements as those based in Britain,” said Penrose.

The amendments, not expected until late 2012, represent the biggest reform to gambling legislation since the passage of the Gambling Act of 2005, which currently does not require operators to obtain licenses and pay taxes in Britain. Most sites have chosen to operate and be headquartered offshore, taking away potential revenues. Britain’s iconic Ladbrokes and William Hill, for example, moved their online operations last year to Gibraltar to take advantage of lower taxes. Betfair was one of the last bookies to drop its UK licensing, setting up shop in Gibraltar earlier this year.

Click here to read more about the regulation of the European market.

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