At the beginning of December, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) revealed the results of a new study which found that 10 EU Member States have made efforts to enhance their consumer protection rules since 2018, including the introduction of national self-exclusion registers in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. However, there are some significant differences in the methods these Member States used to implement their customer protection policies.
The study was published on December 1st by the City, University of London (CUL). The new research was aimed at reviewing specific aspects of the consumer protection policies of the European Union Member States, including safer gambling rules, treatment support, protection of underage individuals, the know-your-customer requirements, etc. All of these rules have been assessed so that the EGBA got enough information on whether the Member States are unifying these rules or not.
Study Finds Fragmentation of the Online Gambling Customer Protection Policies of EU Member States
The latest research came as an update on a previous study that took place in 2018. As mentioned above, it was commissioned by the European Gaming and Betting Association to contribute to research knowledge regarding regulations of safer gambling that currently exist in the EU. Furthermore, it also aimed at raising awareness about the level of customer protection that was available to the citizens of the European Union in respect to online gambling.
The study that was held by the City, University of London and concluded that similar approaches towards consumer protection have been adopted by the majority of EU Member States, but there are still significant differences in how the countries design or implement the rules. The study also found that there are no specific consumer protection policies in some Member States.
The Secretary General of the EGBA, Maarten Haijer, welcomed the progress made by the EU Member States to enhance their customer protection rules but confirmed there was increasing fragmentation in how these policies were implemented, saying that created a complicated enforcement and compliance map for the gambling regulatory bodies and operators across Europe. On the other hand, such diversity in customer protection policies would not benefit the consumer, unlike a more standardized gambling regulatory framework that would benefit consumers, gambling companies and regulators.
Mr. Haijer also explained that the latest study also highlighted that the EU Member States could make more efforts in order to strengthen prevention measures and make sure that people who were affected by gambling-related harm were directed to relevant treatment centers and problem gambling helplines.
As revealed by the CUL research, a total of 16 EU Member States have established a national self-exclusion register for online gambling operations, which allow customers to ban themselves from getting access to online gambling services on the territory of the country but the rules regarding the addition of gamblers to such registers and the duration of the self-exclusion measures pretty much vary. Also, not all of the Member States have adopted rules suspending companies from the chance to send any gambling advertising materials to individuals who banned themselves from gambling.
Key Findings on Customer Protection Rules in EU Member States’ Online Gambling Policies
The aforementioned study examined customer protection procedures across the European Union, including various aspects such as safer gambling initiatives and treatment support, minor protection, know-your-customer policies, etc. As explained above, it was aimed at getting more up-to-date information on whether these rules are becoming more coherent across the EU or there are still some differences in the countries’ policies.
As mentioned above, the research studied how the EU Member States apply the know-your-customer rules. Currently, all countries in the European Union require online gambling companies to collect the full name and date of birth of all prospective consumers. On the other hand, three Member States also require online gambling operators to collect their customers’ residential addresses. The number of EU countries that do not allow so-called temporary accounts rose from only 7 in 2018 to 14 in 2021.
When it comes to safer gambling in general, the CUL study found that 18 EU Member States require online gambling companies to provide their customers with the opportunity to set their own time and spending limits. The research also found that gambling operators in two Member States of the EU do not offer customers self-exclusion tools, although they must do so. The measure has been unveiled as an addition to any self-exclusion schemes that may exist in the Member States.
On the other hand, a national self-exclusion gambling register has been established in a total of 16 Member States and almost all of these registers can currently be accessed via a dedicated website. However, there are significant differences in requirements regarding the duration of a self-exclusion measure in the different countries. The CUL study found that national self-exclusion registers have been introduced in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Slovenia since 2018.
Currently, 12 Member States do not allow gambling operators to send promotional materials to self-excluded customers. Also, 11 countries in the European Union require gambling companies to provide their customers with the contact details of helplines or treatment centers that specialize in helping problem gamblers.
When it comes to the protection of underage individuals, 17 EU Member States currently legally require a “no underage gambling sign” to be displayed on gambling advertising. In comparison, only 5 of them required such a measure in 2018.
The study commissioned by the EGBA and carried out by the City, University of London was also aimed to acquire data regarding the enforcement actions taken by the countries to regulate their legal gambling markets. It showed that all EU Member States have special government structures that regulate gambling, with an independent gambling authority having been established by 16 of them. For the time being, the most common law enforcement tools used by local gambling watchdogs are fines, gambling operating license suspensions and license revocations.