Clarion ATE’s 2nd annual European Gambling Briefing (EGB) in Brussels, Belgium last week, saw 150 gaming industry professionals gather for two days of debate over greater gaming controls.
Wes Himes opened the conference highlighting unprecedented changes in the European legal scene, before introducing the day’s opening speakers, MEP’s Jacques Toubon and Christofer Fjellner. Both men have a strong interest in the gaming issue, and their views are particularly pertinent as the European Parliament threatens to bring proceedings against six member states for monopolistic behaviour in the gaming sector.
“It seems in terms of a harmonisation, it is a contest between the European commission and British bookmakers versus European parliament member states’ parliaments and the rest of the world, especially the USA,” said Toubon.
The following two days saw some 35 speakers talk on a range of gambling issues, including country-specific case studies on Italy, Malta, Netherlands, Germany and the UK, plus an update on emerging Eastern European markets. There was also a fascinating look at the growing issue of competition law in the context of gaming and how this might be the new battleground for lawyers representing private operators.
Day two brought together the most passionate voices from both sides of the arguments for or against greater liberalisation and cross-border competition in the European gambling. Patrick Partouche, CEO of Groupe Partouche, expressed the view of many private operators around Europe when he encouraged market regulators to attend EGB in the future to explain why tightly run land-based businesses were not allowed the freedom to grow online along-side state-run operations.
Mark Davies, Managing Director of Betfair, highlighted the point further by stating: “If we do not allow the customer to exercise choice of product offering, the result is that black markets benefit. Therefore while the debate rages on state monopolies, the black market wins.”
EGB also saw a focus on the business implications of regulatory conflict and legal challenges, with sessions on the business opportunities for operators in different European sectors, in all sectors from betting to casino to online. Growth areas such as bingo and lotteries also received attention.
The prognosis from the two days seems clear: The debate on the future direction of European gaming at a regulatory level is still raging strongly and the operator and supplier community are also taking great notice of developments as they impact on business potential.