How to regulate gambling and betting in Europe?

That was the topic of a seminar and debate organised at the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday 27 June.

Detlev Zenglein, the General Manager of FIFA’s Early Warning System (EWS) GmbH, participated in one of the three round tables, which was specifically about sports betting. The EWS is a non-profit company set up by football’s world governing body to monitor betting on all FIFA competitions and matches and safeguard the integrity of football.

The round table was chaired by Damien Abad, MEP, the Shadow rapporteur for the EP resolution on online gambling in the internal market, and began with an introductory speech from Michaela Ragg, Interpol’s Assistant Director of Integrity in Sport. The panel also included representatives from the European Commission, the IOC and FIFPRO, as well as representatives from the betting industry.

Among the topics on the conference’s agenda were the effects of a lack of common European legislation against illegal betting and cross-border police co-operation. The first round table was on a new EU action plan, while the second focused on the protection of the European consumers.

Zenglein said: “The integrity of sport is being increasingly threatened by developments in the modern betting industry and the correlated opportunities for manipulation. Therefore public authorities at national, European and worldwide level, law enforcement agencies, the sport movement, gambling operators and gambling regulators are required to do everything in their power in order to safeguard the integrity of sport with regard to the betting market.

“This includes the adoption of a possible international legal instrument against match-fixing aimed at ensuring that national legal and administrative systems are provided with the necessary legal tools, expertise and resources to combat this phenomenon. The various individual national approaches towards sports betting laws have to be coordinated, at least with regard to sports integrity regulations.

“It has to be the overriding goal that sports federations, public authorities, betting operators and national regulators agree on a vital exchange, which also includes agreeing on the types of bets available or otherwise act against the integrity of sports. Therefore, a legally binding status has to be reached obliging betting operators to work closely together with national and international sporting associations, federations and other organisations and their respective sports monitoring agencies.”

Further comment came from Abad, who said future EU legislation should seek to strike the "fine balance" between boosting consumer protection and promoting online gambling. While respecting the principle of subsidiarity, he said: "I believe the EU, including parliament, has a fundamental role to play here." The action plan, he said, should also address other related issues, such as the fight against fraud, money laundering and the integrity of sport.

Commissioner Michel Barnier closed the conference, outlining the need for integrity within sport. He said: "Protecting the integrity of competitions merits particular attention. The social values which sport encapsulates are in jeopardy. There is no other type of fraud where it is so evidently difficult for member states to tackle it alone. We therefore have to guarantee effective cooperation between the national regulators, online gambling operators and sports federations to prevent match-fixing. We also have to consider minimum rules on conflicts of interest, perhaps with a ban on certain types of gambling or the creation of more rigorous control systems.”