Interview with Friedrich Stickler, president, European Lotteries
“EL’s members contribute 25 bn euro to state budgets”
By Sophie Mosca | Wednesday 18 July 2012
European Lotteries (EL), the umbrella organisation of national lotteries in Europe, published, on 17 July, a white paper to contribute to the debate on the European Commission’s action plan on online gambling, expected for the autumn. EL President Friedrich Stickler spells out toEuropolitics
his organisation’s expectations towards the EU institutions and the member states.
Why did European Lotteries adopt a white paper now? What are your key messages and proposals?
Following the green paper on online gambling and the political debate that ensued, the time was right for EL to issue a paper with our key policy proposals ahead of the action plan on online gambling that is expected from the Commission this autumn. Our starting point is that protecting European consumers against illegal operators [who number over 8,500] that flood the European markets with dangerous products should be the first and foremost aim of any action at European and national levels. Our white paper contains a number of proposals on how to achieve this.
We further call for stronger efforts to protect the integrity of sport and demand that the sustainable contribution of lotteries to society is taken into account in all discussions at EU level, in line with the 2010 Council conclusions. State lotteries represent a system in which the states ensure that the proceeds are used for the benefit of society rather than being a source of private profit. Last year, the contributions from EL’s members to state budgets and to specific good causes amounted to a record breaking €25 billion.
What do you think of Commissionner Michel Barnier’s recent comments at the European Parliament on the forthcoming action plan on online gambling?
We have heard the call from Commissioner Barnier loud and clear that the protection of European consumers should be the primary aim of policy action in the field of gambling. Let me stress that we stand firmly committed to supporting the European Commission and all EU institutions in the fight against illegal operators who offer harmful products to consumers. What we now hope for in the final action plan is a recognition of the fact that enforcement against illegal operators is a sine qua non for an effective regulation of the market.
We thus hope, notably, that the action plan will make a fundamental distinction between legal and illegal operators. This is not something the Commission has been in our view sufficiently clear about in the past, when it spoke, for example, about the existence of ‘grey markets’ in some member states: a market consisting of operators who hold a licence somewhere in the EU, but not in the country where they offer their products. But there is no such thing as a ‘grey market’ – you are either legal, or you are not.
European Lotteries calls on the member states to implement the ‘unfair operator principle’. What does this mean and how should it be implemented?
Under what we call the ‘unfair operator principle’, member states would refuse to grant a licence to an operator that is breaking the law by offering gambling products to consumers of that member state without holding a licence there. One way that this can be put into practice is by sharing ‘black lists’ established by member states – these are lists that indicate the websites that are offering their products without an authorisation. A member state would then refuse to issue a licence to an operator that owns a website included in the blacklist in another member state. Operators are placed on a black list after a careful examination by the regulatory authority in charge. ‘White lists’, on the contrary, provide consumers with the important information on which operators operate legally (and thus also advertise legally), under control by the state.
European Lotteries defends a stronger involvement by the Council in information exchange and administrative coordination among the member states. Does this mean that the fora organised by the Commission with national regulators are notefficient?
The regulation of gambling is primarily a member state competence, due to the very special nature of gambling, which requires strict and effective control – gambling is an activity that can be very harmful for consumers and that can also be, if not regulated appropriately or where the regulation is not strictly enforced, attractive for criminal purposes, such as money laundering. In light of this, it is essential that member states are in the driver’s seat and take coordination into their own hands. So, indeed, the fora driven by the European Commission are not sufficient.
The EL white paper is available at
www.europolitics.info > Search = 318923