The European Commission is set to reveal its long-awaited online gambling ‘action plan’, which it hopes will provide “a better framework” for European Union member states to approach the issue of online gambling regulation. The EC will drop its Communication and Action Plan manifesto next Tuesday (24) and Sigrid Ligné of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) is hoping the EC will suggest some remedy to the ‘deplorable’ status quo in which operators face “27 mini-markets for gambling in Europe.” The EGBA would prefer “open, fair and transparent licensing conditions for EU-regulated operators.”
STANLEYBET’S BELGIAN BROUHAHA
With that, we segue neatly to Belgium, where three of that country’s licensed bookmakers have filed a protest with the Belgian State Council over the decision to award a sports betting license to the country’s state-run lottery. Stanleybet, Bingoal and Betfirst argue that there was no justification for the Belgian Royal Decree in August that authorized the Lotterie Nationale’s sports betting bid, especially since the Belgian gaming law expressly stated that only 34 offline sports betting licenses would be issued, and these spots are already spoken for. Late last week, Stanleybet issued a statement saying the decision had breached “a number of Constitutional and EU principles” and provided the lottery “a beneficial and privileged situation as it is explicitly granted with a new license for the organization of bets while all the other private operators have to follow an application procedure.”
Stanleybet went on to say that the “massive scale” of the lottery’s monopoly product offering and media presence would enable it “to utilize this unique advantage and literally corner the Belgian sports betting market in a manner which falls foul of every notion of EU competition law.” Stanleybet further argues that this blatant display of favoritism runs contrary to EU stipulations that such preferential treatment can only be justified if the intent is to limit gambling activities, which is obviously not the case here. The Belgian Gaming Commission’s Peter Naessens told GamblingCompliance that under the terms of Belgium’s National Lottery Act 2002, the lottery is entitled to offer sports bets provided it’s subjected to the same rules as other operators. The BGC will decide the fate of the lottery’s sports betting bid on Nov. 7.
BETFAIR SUSPENDS GERMAN AFFILIATE PROGRAM
While Stanleybet challenges Belgian regulators, Betfair is trying to make nice (sort of) with their German counterparts. The betting exchange has sent its affiliates a notice saying it had decided to “temporarily suspend the Betfair Affiliate Program in Germany.” Betfair’s decision was the result of the “continued regulatory challenges” the company was facing as it vied for one of Germany’s new sports betting licenses. In July, Betfair was talking tough, saying it would ignore the terms of the new federal gaming treaty while clinging to the hope the license it had obtained from renegade German state Schleswig-Holstein would suffice. But that was before Schleswig-Holstein’s new government decided to sign on to the new state treaty. Betfair now says that “in order not to jeopardize our efforts” in acquiring a new federal license, the company had “decided to pause our marketing activities for new customer acquisition … for the time being.” However, Betfair will still be accessible by German punters and affiliates will continue to be paid commission on existing referred customers. Betfair optimistically suggested that the program could be reinstated “in a few weeks” if the situation changed.