9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN22 Sociology of Risk and Uncertainty

2009-09-03 13:30:00 2009-09-03 15:00:00 Thursday, 3 September 13:30 - 15:00 Organisation Risk Building I, 2E4

Trans-national risks and the regulation of online gambling in the EU: Exploring Gibraltar as an "online gambling haven"

This paper deals with the emergence and regulation of online gambling organisations in the EU. Empirically the issue is explored in the case of Gibraltar, one of the EU jurisdictions which emerged as one of "online gambling havens". Theoretically it is argued that online gambling organisations introduce new kinds of "trans-national risks". In many EU states, national gambling enterprises have been protected from competition from abroad. However, this situation has been challenged by the development of Internet gambling, the discussions about the "Services Directive", and cases brought to the European Court of Justice. These circumstances are redefining the European context for national gambling policies and gambling organisations. Online gambling created new opportunities for the industry to transcend national borders creating a new challenge for policy makers. National legislators and some existing gambling businesses often actively resist operators from other member states. The risks associated with online gambling such as money laundering, easy access for the under aged and vulnerable, often serve as justification to constrain the market. However, risk management does not pertain only to the risk of excessive gambling and crime. A significant feature of the risk relates also to organisational legitimacy. Contesting the perception of the public and policy makers or as Power (2007) puts it, "managing of reputational risk", is one of the strategies of online gambling operators to legitimise the industry. Industry and governments are increasingly involved in the management of "manufactured" risks (Beck, 1992), in fact creating a new "institutionalized risk environment" (Giddens, 1990) and new forms of "risk-governance" (Hood et al, 2001). The few European jurisdictions which have regulated online gambling play a vital role in this process, with Gibraltar being a key player. In this paper we explore the online gambling industry in Gibraltar and how this industry relates to the broader national and European regulatory environment. We outline how the industry presents itself and the various risk-management strategies it adopts. The main argument is that online gambling constitutes a relatively new field of trans-national risks, and that risk-regulation in this field involves a variety of state and non state actors.