The European Ombudsman has published its rejection of a complaint from the European Gaming and Betting Association over the European Commission’s failure to ensure the regulatory framework for online gambling in certain member states is in line with EU law.
The EGBA had submitted a number of infringement complaints to the Commission, but these were not followed up. With no open dialogue with stakeholders, the EGBA called on the Ombudsman to intervene – but in the course of the inquiry, in December 2017 the Commission closed all open infringement complaints against Member States.
The Ombudsman concluded that “the Commission has wide discretion on whether and how to pursue infringement cases and that the decision taken fell within the boundaries of that discretion.” The Ombudsman found that the Commission’s procedural handling of the infringement complaints had not committed maladministration.
The case is closed and there is no further appeal possible, with underlying legal issues addressed at a national level.
The EGBA say that the Ombudsman’s decision leaves unresolved how to take action against those Member States found to be in breach of EU law, as was the case last month in Hungary. However, the Hungarian Ministry of Justice issued a press release rejecting the European Court of Justice ruling on the country’s gambling laws.
The EGBA argued in a statement that the Hungarian authorities’ actions bring into question the authority of the Court and the integrity of EU law.
“Infringements proceedings in this sector have become a complete mess since the Commission decided to wash its hands of its responsibility to ensure online gambling regulation in Member States is in line with EU law,” said EGBA secretary general Maarten Haijer.
“While the Ombudsman’s decision is disappointing, it does confirm that the Commission’s decision to close these infringement cases was a political one. If the Commission is not taking seriously its responsibility to uphold EU law and ensure Member States, like Hungary, comply with EU Court of Justice rulings, then who will?”