Belgium To Lead Project To Unify European Online Gambling Regulations

Belgian Gaming Commission director Peter Naessens has been chosen to spearhead a new pan-European project to standardise online gambling regulation.

Under the banner of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), a group of international regulators and industry bodies will produce compliance reporting rules designed to be adopted across the continent.

The project’s ultimate aim is to create guidelines on what data online gambling operators should send to their regulators and how they should do it.

The overall group responsible for producing the standards, Technical Committee 456, is chaired by ARJEL international affairs officer Claire Pinson.

She hosted a meeting of the committee in Paris on Thursday, where Belgian regulatory chief Peter Naessens was elected as project leader, handing him ultimate responsibility for drafting the guidelines.

He defeated Mark Pace, managing director of industry group the Gaming Standards Association, who will be considered for the role of co-leader through an online vote before the end of the year.

The group hopes the completed standards will ideally be adopted across most EU countries, but will in practice be completely voluntary.

Lending the venture additional weight, however, are its origins in Brussels. The project began as the result of a direct request to CEN from the European Commission, an institution that officially washed its hands of all gambling issues in December 2017.

That has contributed in part to substantial interest in the project from a number of industry trade groups. Some of whom see it as preparing the ground for a new commission’s approach to online gambling.

The current commission, under the premiership of Jean-Claude Juncker, ends its term next year.

Representatives from the European Gambling and Betting Association, European Lotteries and the European Casino Association were among those attending the Thursday meeting.

Naessens is an interesting choice to lead the project, having been critical of previous attempts to harmonise gambling regulation at EU level.

Naessens told GamblingCompliance that he and his colleagues believed that previous harmonisation efforts "were trying to implement a unilateral liberal policy on the member states, defending the interests of online operators who wanted to offer their services in the most possible countries".

Now, with the voluntary nature of the CEN standards in mind and a gambling regulator at the helm, Naessens sees value in harmony.

"For me this is not contradictory," he said. "All member states that want to be involved [in the CEN project] are involved. And I think if there is no direct involvement from public authorities or regulators you will arrive at solutions that will never be used."

Pinson also insisted that "the requested standards do not attempt to harmonise national online gambling regulation".

The specific elements touched by the project include standards for how operators should report on player accounts, payment methods, spending limits and self-exclusions.

Overall transactions recorded by an operator for a specific product, activity in each market, gross gambling revenue and marketing activities will also be covered.

"While ensuring integrity and security of the data as well as personal data protection, the requested standard will provide a voluntary tool to gambling regulatory authorities," said Pinson.

She added that the guidelines would be produced "without prejudice to the scope of competence of member states in the regulation of online gambling and without imposing any obligation on them to introduce reporting requirements or to authorise or deny authorisation to any operators or suppliers".

The next stage of the project will begin in Stockholm on January 17 and 18, when a group of national experts will meet to formally begin work on the project, the full title of which is CEN/TC 456 "Reporting in support of online gambling supervision".