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The EU Court of Justice (CJEU) rejected earlier this week a petition filed by the Belgian Government against a set of recommendations for the protection of consumers of online gambling services and the prevention of minors from gambling online.

The recommendations were introduced by th European Commission in 2014 but the government of Belgium contested them in court, arguing that these were breaching each individual Member State’s right to regulate their online gambling market in a manner they found fit and to adopt player protection measures of their own choice. Belgian lawmakers further claimed that the European Commission had overstepped its authority by issuing the guidelines.

Earlier this week, the EU Court of Justice rejected the above claims and found that the European Commission had not exceeded its competence and that the set of recommendations had not interfered with Member States’ right to implement their own online gambling regulations.

The CJEU ruling affirmed a previously issued court decision by the General Court. The latter court dismissed Belgium’s case in the fall of 2015. The Belgian government will not be able to appeal the latest ruling further.

Why have the guidelines been contested?

The European Commission introduced the Commission Recommendation on principles for the protection of consumers and players of online gambling services and for the prevention of minors from gambling online in the summer of 2014. It was not legally binding and only aimed to present Member States with a set of guidelines for the effective protection of online gambling customers and the prevention of minors from being targeted and allowed to gamble online.

In October 2014, the Belgian Government filed against the recommendation, seeking its annulment by the EU’s highest court. As mentioned above, Belgian lawmakers claimed that the Commission had gone beyond its authority by introducing the guidelines and encouraging Member States to adopt them.

The Belgian government further pointed out that under EU treaties, the Commission did not have the authority to introduce “an instrument with harmonizing effect” in the online gambling sector.

It also emerged back then that concerns that the recommendation would lower the standards previously set by the Belgian Gaming Act stood at the heart of the country’s discontent.

The European Gaming & Betting Association, EGBA, welcomed CJEU’s ruling in a Tuesday statement. The Association also called upon the European Commission to encourage Member States to adopt its guidelines, to review for any gaps in their implementation, and to take corrective action if needed so that high level of consumer protection across the European Union is achieved.

Based in Brussels, EGBA is the industry body representing online gambling operators based and licensed within the European Union. Its member list includes bet365, Betsson, Kindred Group, and GVC Holdings, among others.

Source: European Gaming Media and Events