October 23, 2012

EU Weighs Money-Laundering Curbs in Online Gambling Action Plan

The European Union may toughen safeguards against money laundering through online betting sites and promote hotlines against match fixing as part of a push to boost protection of gamblers and counter fraud.

The European Commission will also speed up probes into whether national restrictions on online gambling firms are legal in a bid to clarify market-access rules for the industry, according to an EU official.

The measures will be included in an action plan for the online gaming and betting industry to be published tomorrow by Michel Barnier, the EU’s financial services chief, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t yet public.

The EU’s top court in recent years has examined a series of cases brought by betting companies including Bwin.Party digital entertainment Plc, Ladbrokes Plc and Betfair Ltd. over whether it is legal for state monopolies to block them from operating freely across the 27-nation region. Online gambling firms have also called on the EU to take action against what they say are unjustified national restrictions on cross-border gambling.

Since 2006, the Brussels-based commission has probed whether national rules in states such as Germany, France and Italy comply with EU laws. Many investigations are ongoing.

The Brussels-based commission has received complaints about market-access curbs in 20 EU nations, the official said.

Nations tend to justify the curbs on the basis that they are needed to protect citizens from gambling addiction and to prevent crime.

Barnier has said that any moves at EU level to remove market barriers mustn’t harm these consumer protection and law enforcement objectives.

The commission has considered and rejected proposing legislation to clarify competition rules for the industry, the official said.

On money laundering, the commission will weigh whether to extend legislation for casinos to online gaming firms, the official said.

The law sets out identity checks and other monitoring that gaming companies must carry out on their customers. It also requires casinos to report suspicious activities to the authorities.

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