Love it or hate it, online gaming has had a profound effect on previously immovable positions held by European Union Member States. National approaches to gambling were deemed untouchable 20 years ago in the first E.U. report. Now, as governments are forced to evolve by citizens flocking to the borderless internet, tiny Denmark appears willing to lead the way to a workable future.
“I don’t want to be difficult just to be difficult,” says Birgitte Sand, director of the Danish Gaming Authority. “It is much better for the future if we can have a dialogue with operators, to get to know each other’s business, rather than finding fault with each other.”
Sand took the helm of the gaming board in January 2008 and has overseen the development of a common-sense approach to all gaming. In June 2010, the fruits of labor were realized when the Danish Parliament unanimously approved a new legal framework for regulating land-based and online gaming. Besides the gaming authority, the comprehensive law involves three government ministries—taxation, finance and culture—and sets the rules for collection and dispersal of revenue.
Sand’s approach to online gaming recognizes that Danes are already heavily engaged in the activity. An official study published in 2006 revealed that more than half of all players had gambled on the internet, and that 91 percent of Danes between the ages of 18 and 74 had at some point in their lives gambled in one form or another—53 percent of them in the month prior.
“We could no longer have a situation where the Danish players were playing online at sites that had no permit from Denmark,” says Sand. “We weren’t able to protect them in the way we wanted. We couldn’t prosecute the operators, who were abroad, so we needed legislation that would be able to handle that. People want to play online, so why not make legislation where we can actually protect them from the bad guys and support the good operators?”
Denmark is not the first E.U. Member State to open its market to commercial gaming sites. But Sand agrees with many of the positive initiatives aimed at changing governments’ attitudes toward the industry. Within the framework of the Gaming Regulators European Forum, Sand is working with her counterparts from other liberalized markets to develop common standards.
“We have met with many operators, and it is my impression that most of them are serious about working within a regulated market,” says Sand. “Let’s make an effort to have the same institutions as are already in use in other countries, to cut down on the time expended, so an operator doesn’t have to reinvent the system each time.”
Sand is enjoying her role in the development of the online gaming industry and its legislation.
“Taking part in some of the many initiatives to cooperate and finding new ways forward is a great challenge,” says Sand. “At the same time, we have to keep the focus on protecting minors, preventing money laundering and supporting fairness and compliance.”