Today the Dutch court in Arnhem, in interlocutory proceedings initiated by Dutch games-of-chance-monopolist De Lotto against 21 foreign Internet gambling sites, decided that foreign gambling companies have to make their Web sites inaccessible to residents of the Netherlands.
The gambling sites at issue are offered from all over the world, e.g. by Vlastimil from the Czech Republic, AE Bet from Canada, International Sportsbook Systems from Australia and Gamebookers from Antigua.
"We will continue the battle."
- Tjeerd Veenstra
De Lotto had initially written to more than 80 operators of foreign gambling sites. Around 60 promised to stop offering games of chance to Dutch residents. A settlement was reached with some of them shortly before the hearing. None of the remaining defendants appeared in court.
The Arnhem court rendered a default judgment today, finding that the gambling sites are acting unlawfully against De Lotto by offering games of chance to Dutch residents via their Web sites without a Dutch license. The court ordered the operators to block Dutch residents from their Web sites within 30 days.
This is the second victory for De Lotto over a short period of time. The group was previously successful in interlocutory proceedings against the British bookmaker Ladbrokes. The Arnhem court ruled in January 2003 that Ladbrokes had to block Dutch residents from sports betting via its Web site.
De Lotto offers games of chance to Dutch residents via its Web sites--
www.lotto.nl, www.toto.nl and www.luckyday.nl--for which it has an exclusive license. Under this license, De Lotto is required to comply with many restrictive conditions, while the foreign gambling sites do not have a Dutch license and are, therefore, not bound by such restrictions.
The group's executive director, Tjeerd Veenstra called today's ruling "another major victory."
Veenstra added, "We will continue the battle."
The gambling sites will be asked to comply with the judgment by employing software that enables operators to locate the country from which visitors are placing bets.
IGN conducted the following interview with Veenstra, who was celebrating today's victory at his holiday house in France:
IGN: Isn't it a Pyrrhic victory, since punters from the Netherlands are
still able to set their bets via satellite Internet?
Tjeerd Veenstra: I have no idea if this is technically possible. Our view is simple. Everything that applies for off-line should also count for online. It is a legal matter. Therefore, courts should tell us what is possible and what is not possible. So far the judges declare that our views are right.
IGN: Do you get many reactions from other monopolistic operators in Europe?
TV: Yes, of course. They are following the case closely, and we see now also the same type of court cases in other European countries, for instance in Germany.
We understand that we will get [attacked by] licensed U.K. bookmakers. In 2003 and 2004, we will see a legal battlefield in Europe. But we feel strongly that we are going the right way, and we feel strengthened how the legislation is developing in the U.S. We understand that some major companies are bailing out. Above that, we see online gambling credit card and online payment transaction problems in France. It fits in the trend.
IGN: On July 28, there will be the appeal of Ladbrokes in Arnhem and in mid July there will be the verdict of EU in the criminal proceedings against Piergiorgio Gambelli and others, regarding the Italian prohibition on the taking of cross-border bets as contrary to the EU freedom to provide services. What are your expectations?
TV: We discussed, of course, these cases with our lawyers. However, we can run ahead of things. For this EU case, it will be very exciting and intriguing. We think, though, that only the Italian law should be changed. The betting on the outcome of all these court cases may start.