EL at the European Parliament – EL Panel Debate on the responsible advertising of gambling
In the light of the on-going revision of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (‘AVMSD’), the EL organised a panel debate the aim of which was to assess the status of commercial communications for gambling products in terms of the scope of the Directive.
The panel debate took place on 14 February 2017 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg and has been co-hosted by 3 MEPs – Hannu Takkula (ALDE, Finland), Marc Tarabella (S&D, Belgium) and Bogdan Wenta (EPP, Poland). It registered a very high level of attendance – more than 40 attendees (10 of which MEPs, some of whom directly involved in the AVMSD dossier) – and offered valuable contributions from the representatives of the European Commission, the European Audiovisual Observatory and experts on prevention of problem gambling.
How is the current AVMSD affecting the gambling sector?
Gambling operations as such are excluded from the scope of the AVMSD. Commercial communications for gambling products, however, are currently not.
In practice, this means that gambling operators based in one EU Member State can broadcast their gambling products ads by satellite to the consumers residing in other EU Member State(s). Such practice is based on the country of origin principle which is at the very core of the AVMSD and implies that operators do not need to comply with 28 different sets of rules, but only with the set of rules of the country in which they are established.
In other words, current AVMSD enables gambling operators to reach out to the consumers and attract them without complying with the legislation of the Member States of these consumers related to inter alia taxation or consumer protection.
Contributions of the lotteries to the various causes of general interest
Unlike the malevolent operators mentioned above, the EL members offer gambling and betting services only in those jurisdictions in which they are licensed by the respective national government and in doing so they contribute more than 20 billion EUR per year to the state budget and the funding of sport, culture, social projects, research and other causes of general interest.
This has also been recognised by the European Parliament earlier this year as it adopted MEP Hannu Takkula’s Report on “Integrated Approach to Sport Policy: Good Governance, Accessibility and Integrity” which explicitly welcomed the financial contributions made by national lotteries to the grassroots sport:
New reality requires a new AVMSD
Introducing the event proceedings, MEP Takkula and MEP Tarabella highlighted that there is the need of the revision in order to take into account new technological advancements and to sufficiently protect European consumers in the new environments that these innovations have brought.
Opening the panel discussion, Stéphane Pallez, CEO and President of French lottery La Française des Jeux, pointed out that revising the AVMSD provides the opportunity to close the loop hole which is currently being used by illegal operators and, in doing so, will provide better protection to the consumers. Hansjörg Höltkemeier, the EL President, concurred with this, and stated that in order to fully protect consumers with the AVMSD, gambling advertising and marketing must be compliant with the legislative framework surrounding gambling operations in the Member States. Displaying a video of gambling advertisements during the event, Höltkemeier emphasised that many gamblers are not even aware that the advertisements they see are illegal and contrary to the rules that were established in order to keep the consumers safe.
Providing an institutional perspective, Victoria Leroy from the European Commission Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content & Technology (DG CONNECT), gave an overview of the background of the AVMSD, and the reasons as to why it was important to update this legislative framework. More and more viewers are going online, especially minors, whilst at the same time there are strict rules in place covering television. Therefore, in the new AVMSD proposal, it is important that consumers are sufficiently protected in the internet world.
Maja Cappello, Head of the Department for Legal Information, at the European Audiovisual Observatory, added that there is currently a lack of symmetry with the current rules, highlighting examples of licensed gambling providers in one Member State being prohibited from operating in another, yet still being allowed to advertise.
Dirk Hansen, CEO of GamCare, then took the floor to present the perspective from those that can potentially suffer from misleading gambling advertising. As a provider of information, advice, support and counselling for the prevention and treatment of problem gambling, Mr Hansen underlined that those who have gambling problems are particularly susceptible to the misleading gambling advertising.
— Miapetra Kumpula-N (@miapetrakumpula) February 14, 2017
Commercial communications for gambling products should be excluded from the scope of the revised AVMSD
Interactive questions and answers session has been moderated by Jutta Buyse, EL Deputy Secretary General.
During the session, MEP Santiago Fisas Ayxelà (EPP, Spain), concurred with his colleagues from the European Parliament, stating that if gambling operations as such are excluded as an EU competence, then so should gambling advertising be, as this is the only logical conclusion.
Concluding the panel discussion, MEP Bogdan Wenta again emphasised that commercial communications for gambling products should indeed not be included under the country of origin principle and, therefore, excluded from the scope of the revised AVMSD.
— Hannu Takkula (@HTakkula) February 14, 2017
What happens next?
Members of the European Parliament will vote on this important piece of legislation in the Committee on Culture and Education on 25 April, before a vote by the whole Parliament in a plenary session soon after.
Read Hannu Takkula MEP’s press release from the event.
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