Liberal Democrat MEPs have refused to back proposals to ban online live betting, as adopted today by the European Parliament in a report on the gambling industry drafted by Conservative MEP Ashley Fox.
Whilstwelcoming some of the measures proposed in the report, in particular those to reduce gambling-related addiction, Lib Dem MEP Graham Watson has stated that banning live betting online would restrict consumer choice while failing to have a discernible impact on match-fixing.
The South West MEP commented:
“This proposal is completely disproportionate. Many people enjoy placing online bets while watching sports such as football or horse-racing, and the overwhelming majority of them do not engage in any kind of match-fixing.”
“Banning live betting would be an unnecessary interference that would only serve to push people onto less secure, unregulated websites.”
Both Labour and 10 Conservative MEPs voted in favour of the report, while Lib Dem MEPs refused to back it after their proposal to remove the live sports ban was rejected. Mr Watson added:
“The Conservatives like to bang on about unnecessary interference fromBrussels, but this time they are the ones at fault. We can only hope these proposals fall at the first hurdle.”
Concerns were also raised by Khalid Ali, the Secretary General of the European Sports Security Association (ESSA), a body set up to protect the integrity of the licensed betting industry.
“Live betting is incredibly popular with today’s digitally-savvy consumer and is currently the most popular form of online gambling, accounting for more than half of all online sports gambling revenues,” he said.
“These proposals could be detrimental to the betting industry, especially as this decision was made without any evidence to justify this type of restriction,” he added. “In fact in 2009 the UK Gambling Commission found that they did not consider that in-play betting required any special regulatory treatment.”
Notes to editors
Paragraph 53 of the report from Conservative MEP Ashley Fox reads:
“calls on Member States and gambling operators to ban all forms of live sports betting since these have proved to be very vulnerable to match-fixing and therefore pose a risk to the integrity of sport;”
Liberal and Democrats tabled a split vote to remove this text but were defeated.
This report was adopted today inStrasbourgby a majority of 572 MEPs to 79 with 61 abstentions.
The UK Gambling Commission 2009 report on in-running (in-play) betting can be found here