Online bookkeepers and casinos should track players’ bets and raise the alarm if they show signs of problem gambling, the European Commission has told national governments.

Websites should also provide ongoing support to gambling addicts. This should include spending limits, mid-play information alerts about winnings and losses and “time outs” from gambling, the executive's recommendation on web-based gambling services said.

Close to seven million EU consumers, 45% of the world’s market shares, use gambling websites generating about €10.5 billion. The Commission said between 0.1-0.8% of the general adult population suffers a gambling disorder and another 0.1-2.2% show potentially problematic behaviour

Helplines should be available and problem gamblers should be able to easily ban themselves from sites. Training should be given to employees of online betting services so they understand the risks and signs of addiction.

The recommendation also included principles for the delivery of services, for responsible advertising and the protection of consumers, especially children.

Websites should have a registration process to ensure players are old enough to gamble and so operators can monitor their gambling. Rules should minimise children's contact with gambling advertising.

The executive asked member states to incorporate the principles into their gambling regulations. The Commission will evaluate the uptake in 30 months’ time and could decide to legislate.

Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said today in Brussels, “"We must better protect all citizens, and in particular our children, from the risks associated with gambling.

“We now look to the member states, but also to online gambling operators, to match our ambition for a high level of consumer protection throughout the EU in this fast growing digital sector."

Member states should carry out awareness raising campaigns and have independent gambling regulators. They should also collect data about the opening and closing of player accounts and breaches of advertising rules.

The recommendation is part of the Commission’s 2012 action plan for online gambling services.