The European Commission (EC) has invited European Union (EU) member states’ gaming regulators to Brussels on Monday (27th) to see if there might be some way of harmonizing online gambling regulations across the continent. (Our suggestion? Drug their Evians and apply Manchurian Candidate hypnosis. You’re welcome.) The move follows the release in November of the EC Report on Online Gambling in the Internal Market, which spotlighted the many splendored ways in which European countries’ online betting laws run contrary to each other and to EU desires for free and open trade. Internal market and services commissioner Michel Barnier hopes to “test national regulators’ appetite to cooperate and develop common EU rules.” European Gaming and Betting Association secretary general Sigrid Ligné welcomed the meeting, and said his organization’s members had “high expectations of this process.”
Getting all EU countries to agree on identical online gambling legislation is a tall order, considering Germany can’t even seem to agree with itself on the issue. Although 15 German states signed on to a new state gambling treaty last year, the lone holdout Schleswig-Holstein (S-H) proposed its own online gambling regime. Online gambling companies hated the 15 states’ proposal to limit the online action to sports betting subject to a 5% turnover tax, but they loved the S-H plan for a 20% gross profits tax on pretty much any bet you’d care to offer. Gambling Compliance reports that S-H has received licensing queries from 86 different companies since it made its intentions known, and the state’s economic committee chairman Hans-Jörn Arp says “everyone who applies for a license will get it in the first half of 2012.” (Sort of like ‘everyone gets a trophy’ day, but with tax implications.)
But the S-H plan isn’t the law of the land quite yet. It only passed by a single vote in September, and the opposition Social Democrats have proposed a bill to repeal the plan, after which S-H could sign on to the treaty passed by the other 15 states. Given the original margin of victory, it would only take a defection or two (or a flu bug among the ruling parties) to scuttle S-H’s gaming plan. S-H legislators were set to debate the ‘kill bill’ on Wednesday, but the debate was postponed until Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, the other 15 German states’ new gambling treaty has now come under fire from Germany’s amusement arcades. Intergame reports that Germany’s arcade industry is annoyed by the treaty’s imposition of curbs and restrictions that will reduce the number of machines in operation by nearly half over a five-year period. The arcades say the plan is a sop to the country’s casino industry, which wants to use the government to help rein in a competitor. The casinos counter with claims that the arcade industry was heretofore virtually unregulated and subject to a vastly lower tax rate than themselves. Seriously, we think it’s time everybody in Germany joined hands and sang an extremely guttural version of Kumbaya.