A Double Standard Amid Europe's Cross-Border Gambling War?

23 November 2004

Cross-border broadcasting mixed with cross-border advertising for sports betting in Europe is becoming a playground for lawyers, as numerous monopolistic and/or state lotteries continue to defend national borders. Amid these battles, Eurosport, the pan-European sports channel, for several weeks has been airing advertisements for Austrian sports book Betandwin.com Interactive Entertainment AG.

The network's Web site, Eurosport.com, features in its Gaming Zone "the hottest soccer bets" via Betandwin, and on the same page publishes the following advertisement:

"Bet with leading bookmakers using your mobile Bet2Go is the U.K.'s leading mobile betting channel. We work with Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, TotalBet, BlueSq and SportingOdds to get you the best price to your phone using WAP or Txt. The service is FREE."

After clicking the advertisement, punters can wager via i-mode directly with several sports betting services.

A commercial powerhouse, Eurosport is clearly the pan-European advertising market leader for sports-related services. The TV network is available in 19 languages, reaches 98 million homes and serves 250 million viewers across 54 countries. It has the largest audience in pan-European TV. And with up to 85 million pages viewed per month, Eurosport.com is the leading pan-European sports Web site.

Eurosport Group, which includes Eurosport, Eurosportnews and Eurosport.com, is owned by French subscription TV provider Canal Plus and France-based TFI, a free-to-air channel with an average audience share of 32.7 percent (making it the most popular broadcaster with the French public). Despite having such a high profile in France, the company hasn't received a single complaint from the monopolistic French Lottery (Fran├žaise des Jeux) or the permanent state inspector, a representative of the Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for regulating gambling.

This is in strong contrast with French authorities' plans for a court case against AIM-listed Sportingbet, which started a French-language Internet operation a few weeks ago.

IGN made several unsuccessful attempts to contact Fran Fran├žaise des Jeux for comments on Eurosport's cross-borders advertising. Europsport declined comment as well.

Betandwin declined interview requests because it is listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange and, in the company's words, "has to follow governance guidelines," meaning that it will only provide such information via press releases to the public.

Rob van der Gaast has a background in sports journalism. He worked for over seven years as the head of sports for Dutch National Radio and has developed new concepts for the TV and the gambling industry. Now he operates from Istanbul as an independent gambling research analyst. He specializes in European gambling matters and in privatizations of gambling operators. Rob has contributed to IGN since Jul 09, 2001.