The European Commission is expected to delay the publication of an action plan on online gambling originally due on 26 September as officials wrangle over its content. The plan will, in any case, be only a watered-down version of what many in European Parliament hoped would be a draft directive.
The online gambling sector, which is critical of the Commission's failure to sanction EU member states that the industry claims illegally ban services, is demanding an end to what it says have been years of uncertainty. It is understood that the action plan could now be ready for October.
Currently there is no EU legislation specifically applying to the online gambling industry; a sector that generated €8.5 billion in earnings in the EU in 2010. Many national governments have opposed EU legislation because of their determination to protect betting monopolies that often generate significant revenues for the state.
When it is eventually published, the plan is expected to set out what the Commission is prepared to do in the areas of social and consumer protection, sporting integrity and fraud prevention.
Gambling companies have brought a series of complaints before the European Court of Justice about what they see as unfair treatment compared to state-backed betting opportunities, arguing that national governments are not respecting EU law on freedom of services.
The sector is hoping that Michel Barnier, the European commissioner for the internal market and services, will announce a timetable to re-activate the outstanding infringement proceedings against member states as part of the action plan.
The European Gaming and Betting Association, which represents companies offering online betting games, has accused the Commission of “failing in its role as guardian of the treaties” by not requiring member states to apply EU treaty rules in the online gambling sector.
Barnier announced on 27 June that the Commission was to come up with only an action plan at this stage, despite demands from the European Parliament for legislation. However, the way would remain open for legislative proposals in the future.