Gaming Regulators Across Europe Join Forces To Tackle Illegal Gambling

The debate over what constitutes “problem gambling” continues around the world, with no single definition guiding policy. The Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF), an organization that includes most of the gaming regulators across Europe and some government agencies, is looking to change this.

A hamlet of Bergen, Norway, seen from a waterway
A hamlet of Bergen, Norway, seen from a waterway. The Gaming Regulators European Forum is focusing on illegal gambling and will meet there in June to discuss its efforts. (Image: Pinterest)

In a statement it issued last month, the GREF announced that its members are going to make a concerted effort to promote safer gambling. It will start by tackling illegal gaming operators and trying to weed them out of the market.

In doing so, the organization hopes to push consumers to regulated gaming platforms, which are controllable and manageable. The GREF hopes that this will raise the emphasis on responsible gambling and gambling harm, which will help it reduce problem gambling levels.

Obfuscated Clarity

The GREF’s statement asserts that “consumers who access illegal gambling sites are particularly vulnerable” to gambling harm. This is primarily because those platforms are not required to offer the same player protections and safe gambling messages that regulated platforms carry.

Therefore, the organization’s members are going to work together to combat unlicensed gaming sites. The GREF expects to ultimately eliminate the illegal platforms through regular meetings, information exchanges, alerts and the creation of best practices.

The goal is a valid one for the gaming industry, but the approach may run into a few obstacles. The GREF acknowledges that “each regulator remains free to define what amounts to illegal gambling.” It also states that the members will collaborate to “ensure effective implementation of our national regulations.”

The lack of a unified definition makes it impossible to implement unified guidelines. In addition, there are no “national regulations” governing the gambling ecosystem in Europe.

This doesn’t mean that the initiative isn’t worthwhile. It could be a springboard toward greater cooperation and a cohesive regulatory framework. This would ultimately help the ethical gaming industry mature while eliminating the unscrupulous platforms.

GREF Ready To Take Action

Among the different GREF members are the gaming regulators from Belgium, Cyprus, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and others. Leading the group is René Jansen, the chair of the Dutch Kansspelautoriteit. The executive director of the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), Tim Miller, serves as its treasurer.

They will, schedules permitting, be joining other member representatives this June to possibly begin laying the foundation for the new responsible gambling approach. The GREF is holding its annual meeting June 5-7 in Bergen, Norway, in between visits to museums and other scenic destinations like Mount Fløyen.

The GREF, a private company registered in the UK, traces its roots to 1989, when 16 European gaming regulators met in The Hague. It was the brainchild of the UK’s Gaming Board (eventually the UKGC) and the Netherlands’ previous gaming regulator, the Board for Casino Games.

As it expanded to include additional members, including the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the GREF began holding meetings twice a year to address European gaming. However, it later pushed back to just once a year.

The organization’s goals, according to its website, are to give European gaming regulators a forum where they can exchange ideas and information. It also works as a “central point of contact” for questions directed at gaming regulators in the region.

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