LONDON (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Tuesday it was not proposing EU-wide legislation to regulate online gambling, preferring a cooperative approach to issues like preventing the fixing of sports matches and safeguarding children.
Online gambling is one of the big growth areas for bookmakers and more and more consumers are using mobile devices such as tablets or smartphones to bet during sports matches.
Revenues from online gambling were forecast to reach 13 billion euros ($16.8 billion) next year, a rise of 15 percent, the Commission said.
Setting out measures to protect consumers, the Commission said it will encourage cooperation between the EU's 27 member states to ensure children are not allowed to gamble online and other users are not drawn to rogue sites.
"Consumers, but more broadly all citizens, must be adequately protected, money laundering and fraud must be prevented, sport must be safeguarded against betting-related match-fixing and national rules must comply with EU law," Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said.
Barnier said legislation was possible at a later point if cooperation did not prove effective.
"If the measures which we want to take together prove to be insufficient, the commission will propose more ambitious measures, including legislation," he told a news conference.
Major stock market-listed operators are wary of doing businesses in countries where regulations are not clearly defined. A number of them had to pay back taxes in Spain this year before they could take up new licenses in a lucrative market.
A trade body welcomed the plan but said the EU should act more quickly to address more than 30 complaints that companies had filed over the past four years relating to the way laws had been applied in member states.
"There has been no action since 2008 on a single complaint or infringement proceeding," said Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gambling Association, a body including leading betting companies Betfair, Paddy Power, William Hill and Ladbrokes.
($1 = 0.7714 euros)
(Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and M.D. Golan)