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Europe’s Lotteries Debut New Sports Betting Code

October 5, 2008 2008

Two of Europe’s most prominent monopoly sports betting operators have put forward a code of practice for sports betting which looks set to be endorsed continent-wide but the timing, ahead of this summer’s controversial EU White Paper on sports funding, has raised questions about their motivations.

Finnish State lottery Veikkaus Oy and French State lottery La Française des Jeux last week drew up a new European code of conduct for sports betting, and the code was unanimously agreed following a vote by the 40 state lotteries which offer sports betting services at the recent European Lotteries Association general assembly meeting in Budapest.

Already twenty lotteries have signed up to the code, including Finland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, seven German state lotteries, the Czech Republic and Portugal. Others are expected to join as soon as they have secured permission from their respective regulators. The code features commitments on promoting sporting values, responsible gambling, combating sports corruption and cheating. It also includes anti money laundering provisions, and proposals on avoiding conflicts of interest. From September 2007, an independently chaired ethics committee will be established to oversee the adoption of the code.

While renowned Brussels-based lawyer Phillipe Vlaemminck, who acts for many lottery operators, notes that the code only “puts what we already have in practice onto paper,” other observers believe the move is part of a calculated charm offensive by the lotteries, aimed at strengthening their relationship with sport’s governing bodies at a transitional time in European sport.

“The question to ask is why are they only coming up with this code of conduct now,” says Justin Franssen a leading gaming lawyer from the Amsterdam office of law firm of Van Mens & Wisselink. “They should have had this in place 50 years ago or whenever they first got their monopolies. The whole reason to have a monopoly is to have a code of conduct which others do not have.”

The decision by the European Lotteries Association to seize the initiative with their new code is certainly well-timed. The European Commission is currently drawing up a white paper on the status and funding of sport, and national sporting bodies, member states, and MEPs, are lobbying Brussels to recognise the 2000 Nice Declaration, which acknowledges the special status of sport in society.

“There is a move to embrace the Declaration of Nice” says Vlaemminck, “a move to go back to the grass roots of sport and to encourage the development of sport in society, and we see lotteries fitting into that.”

Vlaemminck also believes that the leaders of European sport will not ignore the financial elements when they make their alliances. “From a European policy side it is clear that they have to develop amateur sport and lotteries are the biggest funders of amateur sport. Private funding wants too much of a return on its investment.”

The code will also help the European Lotteries Association build on their long standing relationship with Uefa, European football’s governing body. Uefa is known to want the EC white paper to encourage the creation of Europe-wide legislation to ensure a system of sanctions against and prosecutions of improper betting and match fixing as well as increased protection of the intellectual property rights in fixture lists. Any new proposals to accomplish that will be welcomed.

“I hope they will listen to the world of sport,” Michel Platini, the Uefa president said in a recent interview. “It’s an important moment, and I hope they will understand what people want for the future of sport.”

On the announcement of the new code Christophe Blanchard- Dignac, Chairman of La Française des Jeux said, “La Française des Jeux pays out 2% of its turnover to fund sport for everybody, making the company the leading partner of sport in France. Sport is therefore an essential component of our business and not a pretext for entering the sports betting arena. This code confirms our commitment to defending sport and the values it cherishes. The aim is to release sport from the dangers that may arise from sports betting in order to enable pleasure and pure sporting commitment to take centre stage.”

As debate around the funding of European sport intensifies, very public initiatives such as the ELA’s new code will evidently play an increasingly large part in shaping a new sport betting landscape.

European lotteries association code of practice [3]

© Gambling Compliance Ltd 2006

The author of this article is Andrew Gellatly. This article was published on 01/06/2007 on GamblingCompliance.com (http://www.gamblingcompliance.com)


[1] http://www.gamblingcompliance.com

[2] http://www.gamblingcompliance.com/author/29

[3] https://www.european-lotteries.org/data/info_1124/France_and_Finland___European_Code_of_Practice_for_Sports_Betting.pdf


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