European Court of Justice Affirms Online Gambling Guidelines

The European Court of Justice (CJEU) has dismissed a petition from the government of Belgium that sort for the annulment of online gambling guidelines that had been outlined by the European Commission. The said European Commission (EC) guidelines relate to consumer protection from online gambling.

According to the Belgian government, the EC had overstepped its Treaty-based competences when it issued the guidelines and this was the foundation for their petition. It asked the CJEU to tear down the guidelines which, as per the terms laid out by the EC, were mainly meant to develop a higher degree of consumer protection.

However, the CJEU junked out the petition while pointing out that the guidelines did not interfere with the rights of member states to regulate online gambling services within their jurisdictions. The guidelines which were published in 2014 contain a number of recommendations that are aimed at developing a higher degree of consumer protection (mentioned earlier), as well as preventing or rather protecting minors from the world of gambling. The Belgian government maintained that the guidelines interfered with the sovereignty of member states and thus their competences to regulate national gambling markets had also been impaired.

In the CJEU’s ruling, the defining statement said that “the General Court was able properly to conclude… that [the] recommendation does not have and is not intended to have binding legal effects, with the result that it cannot be classified as a challengeable act.”

The EGBA Welcomes the Decision

The CJEU’s decision has been welcomed by a number of stakeholders in the gambling industry, including the renowned European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) which has always publicly supported the full implementation of the European Commission’s guidelines. Though the EGBA and EC are not legally bounded to back each other, EGBA has been fully behind the guidelines which, as the association points out, will encourage member states to prioritize consumer welfare and at the same time promote a vibrant gambling ecosystem within members of the EU.

EGBA’s officials laid it all out in a statement that said: “The standards adequately compliment the European Committee for Standardization’s (CEN) workshop agreement on Responsible Remote Gambling Measures, which EGBA members voluntarily adhere to and are regularly audited against.”

In addition to the association’s general statement, its Secretary-General, Maarten Haijer said, “We welcome the decision by the Court and strongly support the Commission’s guidelines for online gambling services which aim to protect consumers and minors across all EU Member States.”

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