The European Commission "does not exclude" alternative solutions to individual infringement procedures against member states on gambling, Barnier said during a European Parliament plenary debate in Strasbourg, revealing the approach he will take on the topic during his term.
The debate was prompted by an oral question from UK Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour (ECR), chairman of the internal market committee, who asked the Commission to clarify its position on online gambling following recent conflicting rulings at the European Court of Justice.
One ruling said that governments can restrict online gaming in their country, while another suggested that national restrictions which do not comply with EU law are not possible.
There are currently nine Commission infringement procedures in the area of cross-border betting on sports events online, Barnier said, adding that the EU executive would suggest changing national legislation to ensure compliance with EU rules.
"I want to launch a constructive dialogue [on gambling] with the Parliament and member states and concerned stakeholders," he said, explaining that an EU Green Paper would be the first step forward.
He underlined that member states had not been consulted on gambling since they decided to leave the issue out of the Services Directive in 2006. Barnier said a thorough examination of the reasons why member states restrict access to online gambling was necessary, in particular with regard to societal aspects such as addiction.
As early as last spring, the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers called on the Commission to initiate a dialogue in view of reaching a political agreement on the legal status of both online and traditional gambling in Europe (EurActiv 04/03/09).
A Parliament resolution on online gambling underlined that member states have the right to regulate their culture-specific gambling structures, which finance sports and other social activities (EurActiv 11/03/09).
Furthermore, MEPs stressed that online gambling operators must comply with the gambling legislation of the member state in which they provide their services and in which the consumer resides. Currently, most online gambling license holders operate from tax havens like Malta and Gibraltar, and respect 'country of origin' rules regarding the provision of services.
The resolution further described bets made by private operators on sports events as a "form of commercial exploitation" and urged governments to protect sports competitions from "unauthorised commercial use" and ensure fair financial returns for the benefit of all levels of professional and amateur sport.
The resolution also called on the Commission to examine whether it is possible to give competition organisers "an intellectual property right" over their competitions.