By EDRi

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It seems that some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) simply
think that Internet gambling & web blocking must be added to all
relevant documents. There have been blocking proposals under discussion
at least three times in three years, after the previous proposals had
been overwhelmingly rejected. Now, for the second time in three years,
the Parliament has decided to launch a report on online gambling, with
web blocking as one of the (non-binding) options being considered.

Having spent six months in 2011 preparing a report on “online gambling
in the Internal Market,” in response to a Commission Communication on
online gambling, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee
(IMCO) of the European Parliament has decided to do another report on
online gambling to respond to a new Commission Communication.

Ultimately, the main issue is that cross-border gambling services cause
a reduction in tax receipts in countries with uncompetitive markets or
national monopolies. Under the flimsy guise of “consumer protection”
several EU member states seek to find ways of restricting competition,
with the aim of forcing consumers to use local services (often with
lower average payouts) instead of more efficient and compelling services
elsewhere in Europe.

In 2011, there was extensive discussion about the blocking of “illegal”
websites (“illegal” either due to not being registered and paying tax in
the country doing the blocking or illegal in a more conventional sense).
The result was a rather ham-fisted compromise, with nebulous meaning.
Being non-legislative, this lack of meaning is unimportant, except to
the Parliament’s credibility

When the Commission launched its most recent Communication, it was as
critical as diplomatic possible about blocking, bearing in mind that
this is a policy currently in force in several EU Member States. The
Commission explained that “blocking access to websites does not work as
an isolated enforcement tool and can be easily circumvented” and that
“website blocking can impact on legitimate businesses”.

This expert analysis of the European Commission, based on an extensive
consultation, appears to be of no interest at all to certain
Parliamentarians. Remarkably, in a Committee that is supposed to be
devoted to supporting the European single market and protecting
consumers, ill-informed MEPs are lining up to promote blocking – a
policy which is destructive both for the European Single Market and
consumer interests.

A group of Finnish MEPs from the EPP, S&D and Liberal groups (Sari
Essayah, Eija-Riitta Korhola, Liisa Jaakonsaari and Hannu Takkula)
tabled an amendment calling for measures such as the blacklisting and
the “banning of illegal websites”. And here is a funny coincidence:
Finland has a national gambling monopoly. Similar amendments were also
tabled by Spanish and French parliamentarians.

Ignoring the logical incoherence of seeking to ban sites carrying out
illegal activities (one has to wonder what Parliamentarians think the
practical effect will be of banning something that is already illegal –
maybe they think it will make them very illegal or maybe really, really
illegal), it is remarkable that the MEPs who tabled the pro-blocking
amendments have one thing in common – all of those who were present for
the vote on the child exploitation Directive voted against mandatory web
blocking for child abuse websites. Now, after the confirmation of the
pointlessness of blocking by the European Commission, they have somehow
come to the conclusion that, for economic purposes, it is a good idea.

Next step : IMCO will be voting on the draft report on 29-30 May 2013.

Commission Communication 2011
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/registre/docs_autres_institutions/commission_europeenne/com/2011/0128/COM_COM%282011%290128_EN.pdf

Parliament resolution 2011
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&language=EN&reference=
P7-TA-2011-492

Commission Communication 2012
http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/services/docs/gambling/comm_121023_onlinegambling_en.pdf

Draft Parliament report
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fNONSGML%2bCOMPARL%2bPE-506.088%2b01%2bDOC%2bPDF%2bV0%2f%2fEN

Amendments
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-%2f%2fEP%2f%2fNONSGML%2bCOMPARL%2bPE-508.193%2b03%2bDOC%2bPDF%2bV0%2f%2fEN

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)