Why the EU needs to take more heed of 'distinctive' bingo game

Why the EU needs to take more heed of 'distinctive' bingo game

Thursday, July 21, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
An academic report into legislation has concluded bingo needs a louder voice

A major academic report into bingo in several international jurisdictions has found that bingo is barely mentioned in discussions of online gambling at the EU level.

Dr Kate Bedford, reader in law at the University of Kent, has recently completed three years’ research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, and published The Bingo Project: Rethinking Gambling Regulation.

Part of the study looked at how the bingo sector was handled at an EU level, but the findings weren’t particularly encouraging for stakeholders in the sector. The report concluded that bingo is largely subsumed within discussions of online gambling, lotteries, or games of chance in general.

It said: “With limited exception, the Court of Justice of the EU has tended to speak about online gambling as a singular form of gambling, and has mentioned bingo only in passing when discussing games of chance. A similar approach is evident in the political debates, and policy documents, of the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the Council of the European Union. When different forms of gambling are distinguished by European institutions, it is largely with reference to lotteries and sports betting.”

The report highlights the fact that online bingo is less economically significant than other forms of gambling, that the game is not as universally popular across Members States and identifies that state lotteries are particularly well represented at the EU level, and constitute a ‘powerful lobbying force’.

It continued: “However, if there is something distinctive about online bingo that sets it apart from other forms of online gambling – and this research suggests that there is – in our view policy makers and regulators need to consider how the game could be better represented in policy debates at the EU level.

“More comprehensive outreach with stakeholders, ranging from large commercial operators that use proprietary software to small charities, would help improve the depth of debate about the distinctiveness of the game and the effectiveness of supranational regulations currently impacting operators and players.”

The study also believes that the EU could recognise the good that the bingo sector does for charitable causes and even should actively encourage operators and suppliers to engage in the third sector.

It explained: “As Member States move towards liberalisation of online gambling, stakeholders should consider how licensing requirements can be used to better harness market gatekeepers, such as software and network providers, for use by non-profit organisations, in order to open up more space for the third sector within newly-competitive online markets.”

The report detailed how at the EU level, this could involve the creation of more space for discussions around the important role that gambling plays as a means of revenue generation for third sector organisations, and more explicit inclusion of bingo in such discussions.

It added: “At the Member State level, stakeholders should consider how third sector organisations that wish to use online bingo as a means of fundraising could be better supported in so doing. Perhaps policymakers could consider incentivising software providers to work more effectively with small non-profit organisations wishing to offer online bingo but lacking the technical expertise, for example.”

Totally Gaming Says: The lack of bingo discussion in online gaming is purely down to its popularity and revenues across Europe compared with the other gambling sectors such as lottery and sports betting. However there is scope for recognising bingo as a softer form of gambling, as lottery tends to be perceived, and for there to be discussions around that. However as the lottery sector tends to be dominated by government monopolies, it is no surprise that commercial bingo operations tend to be more likely to be overlooked by Member States.

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