Recently there has been quite a bit of action on the online gambling front from Europe. However most of it is bits and pieces news from different countries, which is reflective of the current fragmented state of the European gambling market.
The Norwegian government was set to impose its own UIGEA like legislation, which has already been approved by its parliament, from August 2009. This legislation, though being advocated as necessary for protection of Norwegian players from the ill effects of gambling, will in reality strengthen the Norwegian gambling monopolies Norsk Tipping and Rikstoto. However the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) has protested that this legislation will go against the free trade rules established internally for its members. The members of EFTA are Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. The free trade rules of EFTA are in consonance with those of the European Union. Since gambling has been specifically included as one of the services in the EFTA rules, Norway could face legal infringement procedures should it go ahead with the proposed legislation. So far the Norwegian government has not responded to the EFTA warnings. However there are indications that the government may postpone the imposition of this legislation till after the Norwegian elections which are due in September 2009.
There are two news items from Spain. Ukash will be making further inroads into the Spanish market on the basis of a new deal signed with Caixa Galicia. This deal will allow more than two million Caixa Galicia customers to buy Ukash vouchers from 950 ATM machines across the country. Ukash vouchers are already available in Spain through post offices, Telecor and Recarga Express outlets, Telefonica telephone kiosks and online at Cuponesprepago.com. The other news from Spain is that the online gambling portal Victor Chandler may soon become the first British bookmaker to secure an Internet gambling license in Madrid. If the deal goes through then Victor Chandler would be able to operate in all 17 of Spain’s autonomous regional markets and also advertise its services in Spain.
The final item is an all-European news. The United States has finally commenced discussion with the European Union on free trade issues related to online gambling. It may be recalled that in the European Union had protested against the imposition of the UIGEA in the United States, stating that the law was against the WTO rules and had been harming European online gambling interests. The European Union had also indicated that it would prefer to arrive at a negotiated settlement with the United States rather than go for legal action at the WTO. Now the first meeting between the United States Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, and the EU Trade Commissioner, Catherine Ashton, has taken place. Ashton said that the objective of the meeting was not to resolve any problems, but to lay out the agenda for future talks. Online gambling is just one of the contentious issues on the table. Both parties agreed to tackle all issues in a spirit of co-operation with the objective of finding solutions.