In October 2012, the European Commission published its Action Plan for online gaming. This is not the clearest document ever to have come out of the EU in terms of setting out exactly what steps the Commission intends to take in 2013 and beyond. However, what is clearer is that the Commission intends to lead some joined up thinking on the regulation of online gambling in the EU.
EU law prohibits a Directive harmonising gambling regulation across the EU. This prohibition makes sense when one considers that, culturally, gambling is viewed very differently from one member state to another. However, the Commission has recognised that in the current financial climate member states will be cutting back on the administrative expense of regulation and, in its Action Plan, seeks to encourage member states to work together to share the ongoing administrative burden. For example, where a gambling operator has been thoroughly scrutinised and licensed by a regulator in one member state, other member states in which the same operator subsequently applies for a licence are encouraged to rely on the checks carried out by the first regulator in deciding whether to grant a licence rather than repeating the same or very similar checks.
The Action Plan is a 'back door' Directive using the mechanism of "enhanced co-operation". It does not do away with the national model of regulation permitted in HIT LARIX, but it does ease the administrative burden for regulators and operators looking to operate cross-border. As such, it is to be welcomed.