Ten EU members strengthened iGambling consumer protection, but gaps in implementation remain

A new study has found 10 EU Member States have made progress in strengthening their consumer protection rules for online gambling since 2018, although significant fragmentation and gaps in how these rules are implemented still remain.

The study, published on Wednesday by the City, University of London (CUL), reviewed specific aspects of the consumer protection rules, including know your customer requirements, the protection of minors, safer gambling, and treatment support; and assessed whether these rules are becoming similar or not.

The research, commissioned by the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), concluded that while most Member States have adopted similar approaches towards protecting consumers, significant differences in how national rules are designed or implemented exist. Moreover, in some Member States, specific protection rules for online gambling are missing.

For instance, while the study found that 16 Member States have established a national self-exclusion register for online gambling, how consumers are added to these registers and the duration of their self-exclusion varies significantly. Additionally, not all these Member States have rules which prohibit gambling advertising from being sent to those who are self-excluded.

The study is an update to previous research, published by CUL in 2018, also commissioned by EGBA. These investigations were carried out with the purpose of contributing to research knowledge about the safer gambling regulations which exist in the EU and awareness about the level of consumer protection offered to EU citizens in respect to online gambling.

“We welcome the progress made in strengthening the consumer protection rules in EU member states,” said Maarten Haijer, Secretary General, EGBA. “In several areas, regulatory principles are converging, but there is increasing fragmentation in how the rules are implemented and this creates a complicated compliance and enforcement map for Europe’s gambling regulators and operators, while evidently also not benefiting the consumer.”

The EGBA Secretary General said a more standardized regulatory framework “would surely benefit all,” while warning that although regulations and enforcement are important, more could be done to strengthen prevention measures, as highlighted by the study.

🇪🇺 A new study by @CityUniLondon has found that 10 EU Member States have strengthened their consumer protection rules for online gambling since 2018, but there is significant fragmentation in how Member States implement their consumer protection rules 🚨👇https://t.co/Fe0aIyOVv8

— EGBA (@EUgambling) December 1, 2021

Research shows that 18 Member States currently require online gambling operators to offer their customers the possibility to set time and deposit limits. Moreover, self-exclusion tools must be offered by operators in all but 2 Member States, in addition to any national self-exclusion schemes which may exist.

A total of 16 Member States have established a national self-exclusion register, of which nearly all are accessible via a dedicated website. Since 2018, national registers have now been introduced in Czechia, the Netherlands, and Slovenia. The requirements concerning the duration of self-exclusion, however, vary significantly between Member States.

In terms of the protection of minors, 17 Member States now have a legal requirement to display a “no underage gambling” sign on gambling advertising. This represents an increase of 5 Member States since 2018.

A total of 12 Member States prohibit the sending of gambling advertising to self-excluded customers, while 11 require operators to provide customers with the contact details of problem gambling helplines and/or treatment centers upon self-exclusion.

A look at know your customer policies shows all Member States require online gambling operators to collect the full name and date of birth of prospective customers, while all but 3 also require the collection of residential addresses. Temporary accounts are prohibited in 14 Member States, 7 more than in 2018.

While all Member States have government structures responsible for regulating gambling, 16 have established an independent gambling authority. The most common enforcement tools are fines, license suspensions, and license revocations.