EDRi responds to European Commission consultation on gambling

By EDRi · August 24, 2011

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Deutsch: [EDRi-Stellungnahme zur Konsultation über Online-Glücksspiele | http://www.unwatched.org/EDRigram_9.16_EDRi_Stellungnahme_zur_Konsultation_ueber_Online_Gluecksspiele?pk_campaign=twun&pk_kwd=20110901]

European Digital Rights responded to the European Commission consultation on
online gambling. As previously reported, an early draft of the consultation
document appeared to be in favour of blocking, in principle, but recognised
the failings of this approach, which it described as “challenging,” “costly”
and “ineffective”.

The final version of the consultation document was more neutral, simply
asking about existing schemes, effectiveness and ISP liability. The
Commission finds itself in a difficult position with regard to this
consultation because it is looking at the issue of online gambling with
regard to protectionism of domestic services by Member States, real and
perceived dangers with regard to gambling addiction and organised crime
(money laundering and fraud, in particular) – without any clear idea either
from the Commission or the Member States as regards the relative importance
of each issue.

The situation is made even more complicated by Member States that claim to
be in favour of blocking of foreign (including those legally registered in
other EU Member States and non-EU ) websites for consumer protection reasons
while their real motivation is simple, old-fashioned protectionism. Belgium
provides the best example of this – on the one hand, it allowed blatantly
fraudulent TV-based games to remain in operation for years (as shockingly
illustrated by the Basta documentary team) and, on the other, it will launch
a blocking system in January to “protect consumers.” Rumours are that the
main target of the blocking system is a fully legal and registered British
website deemed to offer too much competition to Belgian services.
Similarly, blocking in France “protects” French consumers from services in
Britain which give significantly higher returns to gamblers compared with
French services.

A further layer of complexity is added by a lack of clarity as to how the
blocking would be done. The Commission only refers to DNS blocking and “IP
blocking” (it is not clear if this means IP address blocking by the
intermediary or geographic blocking by the sites themselves). Blocking via
deep packet inspection, as appears possible in France in the short-to
medium-term is not discussed.

In short, the Commission was consulting in order to address one or more of
the problems mentioned above, with no clear prioritisation, and
assessed one blocking solution (DNS blocking) and one unclear solution (“IP
blocking”), while ignoring another (deep packet inspection).

EDRi’s response looks at the necessity and proportionality of blocking in
relation to each of the possible motivations that are mentioned by the
Commission and in relation to each of the technologies listed by the
Commission, as well as deep packet inspection. Our view is that blocking is
not the “least restrictive alternative” in any of the possible scenarios and
that blocking of gambling sites in order to protect domestic services from
competition is a blatant and unacceptable affront to the most basic
principles on which the European Union is based.

Consultation document – Green Paper: On on-line gambling in the Internal
Market (24.03.2011)

EDRi’s consultation response (29.07.2011)

Basta documentary (only in Dutch)

EDRi-gram: EC’s leak describes blocking as “challenging”, “costly” and
ineffective (26.01.2011)

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)