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A major setback for online gaming

September 15, 2009 2009

The online betting industry has suffered a setback as the European Union said that member states could be allowed to ban gambling websites if its intention was to stop crime.

In a recent ruling, The European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided that a Portuguese state-run charity’s gambling monopoly is legal if it aims to combat criminal activity.

Referring to the recent case, which involved bwin and the Portuguese football league versus the Portuguese monopolist Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa, Sigrid Ligné, secretary general of the European Gambling and Betting Association (EGBA), said given the stringent anti-fraud regulations applicable to EU licensed operators which ensure a high level of integrity, transparency and traceability over online gaming transactions, “we do not believe those conditions are met”.

“Several jurisdictions in the EU already prove that it is possible to guarantee a high level of consumer protection and have a well regulated and competitive online gaming market at the same time,” said Ligné.

According to the Association, the judgment must also be seen in the context of the increasing number of Member States that are now in the process of rethinking and redrafting their gaming legislation. As has been obvious for all other consumer markets before, none of the Member States currently drafting legislation has chosen a monopoly model to regulate this modern Internet based market.

Overall, the sentiments have been fairly negative.

“It’s a bit disappointing because the hope was that the European Commission and the European Court of Justice were actually in favour of markets opening up,” said James Hollins, analyst of gambling stocks at Daniel Stewart & Company, according to Reuters. “It looks like (the ruling) would strengthen the hand of countries who want to continue to protect state monopolies, which include Portugal or Germany.”

Internet-based gambling operators are currently involved in a number of court cases and regulatory disputes over access to markets in Europe. The industry feels the recent verdict may adversely impact the pending cases.


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