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ECJ delivers a critical judgment

September 15, 2009 2009

The European Union’s highest court recently ruled that a Portuguese state-run charity’s gambling monopoly is legal if it aims to combat criminal activity.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) rendered its judgment in a case involving bwin and the Portuguese football league versus the Portuguese monopolist Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (Santa Casa).

Santa Casa claimed that bwin’s sponsorship agreement with the Portuguese professional football league and accompanying advertising activities were illegal because of Santa Casa’s monopoly in providing on and offline lottery and betting services in Portugal.

According to the ECJ, the Portuguese monopoly on the Internet may comply with Community law under certain conditions, but restrictions imposed by a Member State “must be suitable for achieving the objective or objectives invoked by the Member State concerned, and they must not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve those objectives. Lastly, in any event, those restrictions must be applied without discrimination.”

The Direccao do Departamento de Jogos da Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Lisboa, a Portuguese state charity that has a broad national monopoly covering electronic betting and lotteries on television, radio and the Internet, fined the Liga €75,000 ($107,565) and Bwin €74,500 for infringing on its monopoly, according to Dow Jones. Liga and Bwin appealed these fines before a Portuguese court, arguing that EU rules ensure companies can provide goods and services freely across the bloc’s borders. The court hearing the case decided to ask the ECJ to give its interpretation on the application of EU law. The Luxembourg court ruled that free movement of goods and services can be restricted if the public interest is at stake.


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