The Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association {GBGA) has filed a legal challenge against a law introducing a new gambling licensing regime in the UK.

The GBGA argues that the new regime, introduced through the Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 and also the guidance and policies of the Gambling Commission of Great Britain, is “unlawful, because it is an illegitimate, disproportionate and discriminatory interference with the right to free movement of services guaranteed by Article 56 TFEU, and is irrational.”

Whereas the declared intent of the law is to protect consumers, the Association fears that it could achieve exactly the opposite and cause consumers real harm.

“The absence of effective supervision and enforcement, coupled with the burdensome regulatory requirements, will encourage the growth of and migration to unregulated or poorly regulated operators which will present genuine risks to the British consumer”, the Association argues in its submission to the High Court of England and Wales.   “When introducing the New Licensing Regime, the Defendants rejected the option of a “passporting” regime. This would have been both less onerous to legitimate operators and more effective in protecting consumers, since it would have been based on effective supervision and cooperation between the GC and overseas regulators.”

The GBGA believes that the new regime was designed for economic reasons: to grant UK operators a competitive advantage over those from overseas. This objective, its counsel argues, is illegitimate.

Because the new licensing regulation will come into force on October 1st, the GBGA has asked for an expedited hearing of its case.

Peter Howitt, chief executive of the GBGA, commented: “It is extremely disappointing that our concerns have not been listened to by the UK Government, and that the Gambling Commission’s plans to expand its remit have been accepted.  The only beneficiaries of this change are the UK domestic industry and the Gambling Commission itself, which has persuaded the UK Government that it should be the global regulator of this high tech and complex industry.  It has neither the resources, the legal powers, nor the skills to operate successfully across the globe.  This is bad news for consumers, and for international competition.  We have an effective and knowledgeable regulator in Gibraltar.  That the Gambling Commission believes it is better placed to regulate the industry here is laughable.  We are determined to fight against measures that actually undermine consumer protection.”

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