Former Executive Director of the European Casino Association and current Managing Director of Time & Place Consulting , Glenn Cezanne provides the latest info on what’s trending and what’s coming down the pipeline in Brussels and around the EU. 

With the “Beast from the East” having hit Europe, it would be interesting to see how the trends interacted between online and terrestrial gambling due to more people staying at home. I have still to come across a “meme” which depicts a person walking through very deep snow stating “I’m still going to the casino”. Good thing Casino International is available online and in print. Kudos to the postmen that still manage to make their way through the storm.

Belgium vs. European Commission

In the last edition, I had written about Belgium taking the Commission to court regarding the online gambling Recommendation, with a view of seeking an annulment. Following approximately two years of proceedings, including the most recent appeal by Belgium, the last update I provided was that the Advocate General gave an Opinion in favour of permitting to hear the case in court. A judgement was provided on 20 February 2018, which did not support the Opinion. Quite a rarity.

Online Gambling Data Reporting

Weren’t there some initiatives pending on data reporting standards for online gambling across Europe I hear you ask? Absolutely, but that is all they are at the moment. You might remember, the European Commission which had asked the European Standardisation body (CEN) to come up with the relevant standard. Ironically, it is now the Commission which still needs to provide the implementation decision to this effect. At this point in time, no date is set.

Bricks of Brexit

Taking into account the sharp increase in technical discussions (e.g. Euratom, aviation), as much as the political discourse, we at T&P spend most of our time looking at Brexit. This is not least to a plethora of speeches accompanying a series of visits by top-ranking UK officials have finally led to a better idea of what is going on. Unfortunately, no one understands yet though what the UK government really wants. Prime Minister Theresa May’s latest speech in March confirmed a few things. Brexit is going to happen. Even the opposition (Labour Party) has confirmed its support on this. Furthermore, the government doesn’t want to be in the Single Market, nor in the Customs Union. It wants to have a special deal with the EU which is more than a free trade agreement, but less than membership. Voices in the EU still remain (relatively) unified. “No cherry-picking.” “No advantages without obligations.”

In the meantime, it is not a positive signal that the Commonwealth countries’ leaders have openly declared their intention to prevent Brexit from being a key subject at the next summit to take place in London in April 2018. Expect some negotiations on the side-lines though.

Whilst in the UK, nothing is more important, Brexit still seems to take a back seat in most EU countries. In Germany, the draft Grand Coalition treaty between the centre-right and centre-left (which was finally approved at the beginning of March) mentions Brexit once. It concerns fishing in the North and Baltic Sea. In Italy, the elections are making the country look inward. I see most Italians around me are in permanent “head-in-hands” mode at the success of the anti-establishment, populist and far-right parties. They can’t decide whether to laugh or cry.

On the other hand, EU Member States are discussing the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the typical seven-year EU budget which is to start in 2021. This time without contributions from the UK, the countries are wondering how to cover the deficit.

Brexit negotiations are more frequent now, with the issue of a non-border on the isle of Ireland taking the fore. The European Commission published a draft Withdrawal Agreement, setting out inter alia the main points on what was agreed upon in the first Phase of negotiations (EU citizens in the UK, budgetary obligations, Ireland) and the transition phase during which a new deal is to be attained. The draft suggests as an option putting a “customs border” between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland to avoid a hard border on the isle of Ireland. You can imagine the reactions in the UK. Before the draft Withdrawal Agreement is officially presented to the UK (for which the time and place is currently unknown), it will make its rounds amongst the other EU Member States and the European Parliament.

Greetings from Brussels.