GGB is committed to providing updated news and analysis on our weekly news site, GGBNews.com.

Two Decades of Advocacy

The European Casino Association champions Europe's licensed land-based casinos

Two Decades of Advocacy

Representing the interests of licensed land-based casino operators in 29 countries, the European Casino Association (ECA) works to raise awareness about the industry among policymakers and stakeholders while simultaneously promoting efforts to create and maintain a regulated, safe and responsible gambling landscape.

Headquartered in Brussels, the ECA was established by the resident associations of the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom in 2005 as a direct successor to the European Casino Forum information exchange organization. This earlier outfit could trace its roots back to the early 1990s, with its heir being launched to address moves from countries of the European Union (EU) towards the implementation of bloc-wide policies indirectly impacting national gambling laws.

The European Union, through its Services Directive, has determined that member states are responsible for regulating their own industries based on the principle of subsidiarity. This means that there is no legal provision for cross-border gambling or for the harmonization of gambling laws among member states. The ECA is committed to ensuring this situation remains, to take into account the diverse historical, cultural and social roots of gambling in individual constituent countries.

The chairman of the ECA, Erwin van Lambaart, says his organization has since grown to include members today “from nearly all EU states as well as non-EU countries,” while its corporate partners employ a combined workforce of well over 60,000 people at approximately 700 individual casinos. He also describes his concern’s main aim as “guiding the sector towards a thriving and responsible future” via a range of advocacy, awareness-raising and knowledge-sharing efforts.

“The primary reason for the establishment of the ECA was to represent national associations and the individual operators of licensed land-based casinos across Europe,” explains van Lambaart. “Over the years, the ECA has grown steadily to the point where it today includes members from nations as diverse as Spain, Sweden, Lithuania, Cyprus, Poland, Estonia, Portugal and many more. The ECA aims to increase awareness and understanding of the casino industry among EU policymakers and stakeholders and constructively contribute to EU decision-making on matters affecting the casino sector.”

 

Gifted Group

Ron Goudsmit, a foundational figure in the establishment of the ECA, initially served as its first vice chair alongside the inaugural chairman, Anders Galvensjö from Sweden. Subsequently, he led the ECA as chairman for nine years. In 2015, Goudsmit was given the title of honorary president of the ECA, a distinction he shares with Per Jaldung, who chaired the ECA from 2015 to 2023.

Reflecting on the past two decades, Goudsmit expresses pride in the organization’s accomplishments and its esteemed global reputation. Now focusing on his own venture, Easyplaytime, a gaming consultancy, Goudsmit highlights the ECA’s recognized expertise and the strong connections it has fostered with regulatory bodies, industry stakeholders, and fellow gaming associations worldwide.

“Starting in 2005 as a small group of European operators, the ECA has grown to become a trustworthy and expert voice in Brussels for the entire regulated European casino industry,” says Goudsmit. “It is good to see how ECA members strive every day to bring the best service to guests while doing their utmost to contribute towards local and national economies and serve as valuable and trusted community partners.”

 

Proactive Projects

The ECA is moreover very committed to responsible gaming, and in 2014 established the initial version of its Responsible Gaming Certification Framework to address a wide range of elements including the education of players and casino employees in conscientious advertising and gambling practices. Governed by a board of democratically elected directors, the organization also frequently engages in strategic initiatives and collaborations such as the United Nations Global Compact and the Alliance Against Illegal Gambling.

“The ECA regularly underscores its strong stance on ethical conduct and integrity across the gaming industry,” asserts van Lambaart. “The ECA additionally ensures that its strategies and goals are pursued with a clear vision and responsible oversight, reflecting the collective interests of its diverse membership.”

 

Inclusive Intention

Van Lambaart, who also serves as chief executive officer of Casinos Austria and Austrian Lotteries Group, says the ECA draws its support from “a diverse and influential membership base” fundamental to “the continent’s vibrant casino industry.” He describes Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom as his group’s “significant supporters,” as each boasts “a substantial and impactful casino sector.”

“The commitment of members is further exemplified by the active participation of countries such as Luxembourg, Finland, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands, whose representatives hold key positions on the ECA board and lead various ECA working groups,” van Lambaart says.

“The strength of the ECA is anchored in the professionalism of both its members and the association itself, the exceptional hospitality offered by member venues to customers daily, and the robust network these operations establish within the ECA framework, hence our motto, #strongertogether.”

Exemplifying this diversity, Tiina Siltanen from Finnish state-owned casino operator Veikkaus Oy serves as the ECA’s senior vice chair, working to improve the overall reputation of Europe’s licensed gambling sector via a range of diversity and inclusion schemes. Appointed to this post in February, the 46-year-old general manager of her home nation’s Casino Helsinki property has more than 20 years of industry experience, and is furthermore keen on promoting international cooperation.

“I am truly honored to have been appointed as the senior vice chair of the ECA, and look forward to contributing to the future of land-based casinos in these interesting times,” says Siltanen. “As part of my role, I have a particular focus on enabling the ECA’s biggest annual events, the European Dealer Championship (EDC) and the ECA Casino Industry Forum, both of which are paramount to our mission.

“The ECA Casino Industry Forum provides a vital platform for industry stakeholders to discuss innovations, challenges and the future direction of the casino sector while the EDC is a prestigious event that showcases the exceptional skills and professionalism of casino dealers across Europe. Both of these events are instrumental in fostering excellence and collaboration within our industry.”

Chosen at the same time as Siltanen, the highly knowledgeable boss of French casino giant JOA Group, Laurent Lassiaz, is now the ECA’s vice chair after successfully helping to guide his 34-property firm through the Responsible Gaming Certification Framework process in 2022. The 58-year-old Frenchman is now particularly dedicated to raising the attractiveness of the European casino sector while broadening and rejuvenating its target clientele.

“It fills me with great pride to have been chosen as the vice chair of the ECA during its general assembly in February,” says Lassiaz. “In my dual role as ECA vice chair and chief executive officer for JOA Group, it’s imperative to me that we communicate effectively with politicians and governments about the significant contribution casinos make to tourism and local economies.

“Our impact extends well beyond generating tax revenue; it’s about the significant number of high-skilled hospitality jobs and comprehensive entertainment experiences our casino resorts provide, which enrich local communities far beyond gaming. Our industry plays a pivotal role in creating vibrant, sustainable communities, and as part of the ECA leadership, I am committed to advocating for this broader understanding and recognition of our contribution. Together, we can ensure a prosperous future for the casino sector and the regions we serve.”

Alongside these model casino professionals, Hermann Pamminger from Casinos Austria serves as the ECA’s secretary general, acting as a much-needed resource on all matters legal and regulatory. The Vienna native assumed this post in March 2020, and has been playing a pivotal role in raising the profile of the organization while increasing the knowledge base of stakeholders and policymakers.

“As secretary general of the ECA, I prioritize effective management and dialogue with EU institutions and our stakeholders to advocate for our industry,” says Pamminger. “Strengthening our member network and our network of global industry contacts is also essential. Together, we are all working towards a resilient and thriving future for the casino industry in Europe.”

 

Pronounced Progression

Although the core aims of the ECA may have remained relatively consistent over time, van Lambaart declares his organization has expanded its activities and initiatives to be better able to deal with “the evolving landscape of the casino industry,” as well as any resultant opportunities and challenges. He cites advancing technological development in addition to the increase in cross-border illegal online gambling as just two issues where the group is committed to staying at the forefront of regulatory and law enforcement efforts.

The European Parliament is set to hold its latest round of elections in June, and van Lambaart says the ECA is looking “to drive forward several initiatives” to make sure incoming representatives “are well-informed about the contributions and requirements of our industry.” He reveals these programs include intensifying public affairs efforts in Brussels, working towards the cultivation of robust relationships and advocating for initiatives that support the European licensed casino sector.

“The ECA is in the process of broadening its scope to include representation for the online gaming sector,” affirms van Lambaart. “With a significant portion of its members, approximately 60 percent, already active in the online gaming business, the ECA recognizes the importance of aligning its portfolio with the evolving landscape of the gambling industry. A dedicated working group within the ECA is diligently preparing the specifics to ensure that the association’s future endeavors will effectively represent and support its members’ interests in the online gaming domain.”

 

Bountiful Benefits

Van Lambaart says being a member of the ECA offers national associations and casino operators a vast array of staff development opportunities via participation in a number of specialized working groups. He says these provide high-quality training and education on topics as varied as partnership development, anti-money laundering protocols, compliance matters, and cybersecurity advances to ensure personnel are “well-versed in industry best practices and emerging trends.”

On top of all this, the ECA runs its annual Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship for spaces in the Executive Development Program run by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the University of Nevada, Reno. This initiative, now in its seventh year, offers two employees from among the organization’s membership the chance to attend special sessions in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, to help enhance their leadership capabilities and strategic thinking skills.

“Members benefit from direct access to vital information on developments and key issues affecting the casino industry, all while adhering to the provisions of the EU Antitrust Regulation,” states van Lambaart. “Furthermore, being part of the ECA means joining a robust network that offers numerous benefits including timely insights into evolving regulations affecting the industry. This network empowers members to stay ahead in a dynamic regulatory environment, enhancing their operational effectiveness and compliance.”

 

Constructive Connections

As part of its efforts at bolstering industry links, the ECA has long maintained a relationship with the counterpart organization for casino operators in the United States, the American Gaming Association. This informal alliance, van Lambaart says, endeavors to advance the interests of the licensed gaming industry on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean via the exchange of information, know-how and best practices.

“This synergy is further enhanced by reciprocal invitations to various events hosted by each association, providing platforms for sharing insights and fostering dialogue among industry leaders,” says van

Lambaart. “This cross-continental alliance underscores our shared dedication to ensuring the casino sector’s integrity. It also makes sense because, with gaming companies active worldwide, the interest groups should also be globally networked.”

“While we may not share borders, the American and European gaming industries do share similar goals when it comes to advancing responsible and robust legal gaming markets,” says Alex Costello, vice president of government relations for the American Gaming Association. “The ECA continues to be an invaluable partner for the AGA as we trade lessons on how to lead our respective industries forward.”

 

 

    Recent Feature Articles

  • Funding the Future

    Gary Ellis’ vision of a cashless casino ecosystem with Marker Trax and Koin

  • Age of the ETG

    Electronic table games have grown from simple automated roulette machines into a genre that is steeped in innovation.

  • Online in Ontario

    Stakeholders deem Ontario a success, but also a work in progress.

  • Mixing It Up

    Developing slot floor strategies for emerging markets.

  • Gaming & Diversity: Staying the Course

    DEI has encountered big resistance of late. Here’s how gaming companies continue to build a fairer workplace.