Online gambling execs flock to Barcelona

10 October 2006

Amid regulatory and legislative chaos in America and Europe, more than 1,000 online gambling executives, investors, lawyers and regulators will flock to Barcelona for the fifth annual European i-Gaming Congress & Expo (EiG) this week.

Beginning Wednesday, the three-day event will consist of several hours of conference discussion and presentations about the industry's most pressing topics. The conference will also include an exhibition area where more than 40 global online gambling companies will display their latest products and services.

Production company Clarion ATE says more than 850 individuals representing 485 different companies from 42 countries have already pre-registered for the event.

Europoean issues have traditionally been the focus of EiG, but this year they are certain to be overshadowed by recent events in the U.S., including the arrests of two prominent online gambling executives in the summer and the passage of legislation at the end of September aimed at prohibiting Internet gambling.

The events could have dangerous consequences for online gambling companies, many of which are traded on European stock exchanges. Several have already opted to leave the American market rather than risk crossing authorities, while many are taking a wait-and-see approach.

Some speculate that the legislation is flawed and will not succeed in preventing American players from finding ways to gamble over the Internet. It is generally estimated that Americans contribute more than 50 percent of the online gambling industry's $12 billion in annual revenue.

EiG will represent the first opportunity for the online gambling industry's top minds to confer about the escalated threat to the American market.

Meanwhile events on the European regulatory stage are boiling to a climax. Last month Manfred Bodner and Norbert Tuefelberger, co-CEOs of Internet betting giant (formerly known as, were arrested in France. In the case, the issue is not that online betting is illegal in France, but that lacks appropriate licenses.

The conflict in France is epidemic of the conflict across several European Member States. While nearly every Member State does license betting services, most regulatory frameworks permit only a handful of government-owned operators. Private firms argue that such policies are protectionist and in violation of European Union free trade rules. The case is the most high-profile of many legal battles over the last seven years.

The European Commission is currently investigating the matter and is expected to issue a ruling on the legality of such regulatory frameworks within the next few months. and will continue to report on EiG throughout the week.

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European iGaming Congress & Expo (EiG) 2006