EC opposes France net gambling decree

The European Commission issued a detailed opinion against the French draft decree on gaming payments that would implement a law similar to the United States' Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

The draft decree intends to have French financial institutions block payment orders from online gambling operators listed by the French authorities. This includes online gambling companies that are fully licensed, regulated and based in the European Union.

It is the second of two decrees, drafted under the 2007 Delinquency Act, that attempt to erect technical barriers to online gambling coming from outside of France. The first decree sought to oblige Internet service providers to discourage consumers from accessing Web sites other than those operated by the French gaming monopolies.

That first decree is already the subject of a separate European Union infringement proceeding. It was never adopted following a detailed opinion issued by the EC against it in July 2007.

The European Gaming and Betting Association pointed out that the Commission's decision this week on the new decree is a timely reminder that restrictions on the free movement of capital and payments, as set out in the EC Treaty, are not acceptable.

"Today's action consolidates the Commission's position that the unjustified payment blocking in our sector clearly contravenes EU law," said Sigrid Ligne, EGBA secretary general. "We welcome the Commission's action and hope that this will send a clear signal to other EU and EFTA Member States that such proposals will not be tolerated."

Similar restrictions are currently being considered in Germany, Norway and the Netherlands. Ligne pointed out that online gambling payment restrictions have been passed in the United States already, and as a result it has been proven that "such restrictions are difficult to implement, easy to circumvent, inefficient and foster the growth of an underground market."

The EC's opinion on the French decree extends the standstill period of non-adoption until March 31. During that time, France can't adopt the decree, and after that time, if France moves forward to adopt the new restrictions, the Commission can immediately launch infringement proceedings.

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