Public Gaming Interviews Dr. Heinz-Georg Sundermann, Managing Director, Lotto Hessen GmbH


PGRI Introduction: Dr. Sundermann was appointed to lead Lotto Hessen in 2002. The years since then have been marked by significant changes in the European regulatory environment and marketplace. And the rate of change is not likely to slow down any time soon. Adversaries are capitalizing on the instbility and uncertainty wrought by rapid change and revisions of regulatory structures. The challenge for state lotteries is to identify ways to compete and grow, to capitalize on the opportunities, and mobilize our stakeholders to help us defend the stability, integrity, and regulatory infrastructure so vital to a sustainable games-of-chance industry 

Paul Jason: EU members must comply with terms and conditions of the treaties that established the Union, but does it seem like the posture of the European Union Commission has evolved to support more autonomy for member states to decide their own gambling regulatory model?

Heinz-Georg Sundermann: Over the last few years, the European Court of Justice has taken a series of decisions detailing the boundary conditions for games-of-chance in the Member States. In this context, the European Court of Justice first ruled that a game-of-chance is an economic activity that is unlike any other, and thus not subject to the fundamental provisions governing the freedom to provide services across borders in the EU. When it comes to games-ofchance, every member country has the right to determine its own regulatory course.

The related spectrum is very wide, which means that prohibition, a single-operator model, a procedure for the controlled opening of the market, as well as a free market with multiple operators – these are all admissible under the rulings of the European Court of Justice. The only requirement the European Court of Justice imposes on the corresponding provisions in a Member State is to be coherent, and the European Court of Justice assumes such coherence has to be horizontal. This requires the provisions applicable to the various types of games-of-chance like lotteries, sports betting including live bets, casino games (whether on the Internet or terrestrial), as well as gambling laws in amusement arcades, to be coherent with regard to one another while considering the corresponding objectives defined for protection.

If your primary objective is, for instance, to protect the gamblers and minimize problem gambling, the provisions applied to less harmful sectors of games-of-chance like state-owned lotteries cannot be more stringent than in areas like casinos or amusement arcades, which tend to have much higher rates of gambling addiction.

The European Court of Justice also stated that there must not only be a statutory basis, but that this basis cannot be considered sufficient unless the state also enforces the legislation it has adopted. Every state in Europe may organise the framework applicable to games-of-chance in accordance with its own social ideas as long as the standards defined above are observed.

In the end, are the European states migrating towards the more liberal, open market model?

H-G Sundermann: Not necessarily. When you look at the European regulations, you can see a large bandwidth of completely different sets of rules applicable to games-of-chance. There are very liberal approaches as in Denmark and in the betting sector in the United Kingdom. Apart from this, you have clear monopoly structures as, for instance, in Norway. And there are many mixed forms in between, like in France and Germany.