More member state harmonisation for a more attractive and secure EU market - such is the essence of a draft report penned by Ashley Fox, (ECR, UK). The report is the European Parliment's response to the Commission's 23 October 2012 communication, which outlines its relevant road map. As one might expect from a MEP hailing from Gibraltar, the text tips the scale in favour of private betting operators rather than the monopolies. On 20 March, the Committee on the Internal Market (IMCO) exchanged views on the report.

Fox is calling for the Commission to be more forthcoming in sanctioning member states opting for monopolies when they do not reduce betting opportunities or coherently limit publicity. Fox's argument is based on EU Court of Justice case law but he conveniently forgets to recall that the ECJ also stressed (Gambelli and Santa Casa rulings) that each member state can use national specificities to limit betting possibilities.

"The starting point of the report needs to be reviewed," said Sirpa Pietikainen (EPP, Finland). "There should be more of a focus on respecting the subsidiarity principle and the various [European] traditions. We need to be very clear about the fact that betting games are not an economic activity like any other activity - and that this is a reality, which justifies more consumer protection."

Jurgen Creutzmann (ALDE, Germany) and Christel Schaldemose (S&D, Denmark), the previous rapporteurs on online betting, shared that point of view, calling for more player protection in the report. Sakari Aeras of the Finnish ministry in charge of betting was invited as an expert and also stressed that "online gaming is not a normal service and it calls for stricter player identification measures to avoid abuses" and for Finland that means the establishment of a monopoly of three operators. According to a recent investigation, this led to a decrease in game addiction and the sums players bet.

As for consumer protection, the report calls on the Commission to look into the feasibility of a self-exclusion register at EU level. But, said Pablo Arias Echeverria (Spain, EPP), this could lead to issues of...

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