bwin's co-CEOs, Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger, arrested in Nice on Friday, were released this afternoon on bail of 300,000 euro and await a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Francis Teitgen, a former member of the council of the Paris Bar and the National Bar Council, will defend the execs. According to a bwin press release, very conceivable measures will be taken--and not just within the company--to ensure that the Austrian co-CEOs may leave France as soon as possible.
The company's supervisory board, under the chairmanship of Hannes Androsch, has thrown its weight behind the executive board and the company, assuring them of its unreserved support.
Initial steps have already been taken by bwin to initiate legal proceedings against what many consider an appalling exercise of arbitrary power in a move designed exclusively to protect the French government's gaming monopoly.
A French court ruled in the ZeTurf case in 2005 that offering Internet wagering on horse racing in France falls under the exclusive right of PMU (Pari Mutual Urbain), whose monopoly to organize betting on races was granted in 1930.
Moreover, PMU has since 1964 held the exclusive right to take bets on horse races taking place outside France. During the summary proceedings of the 2005 case, PMU recalled further that the so-called Perben II Act of March 10, 2004 sanctioned the unauthorized organization of lotteries with two years of imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros. In its decision of July 8, 2005, the First Instance Court of Paris followed PMU's requests, arguing that "the management of organization has been entrusted to PMU by the companies authorized to be active in the field of pool betting outside the hippodromes, as it was provided by article 27 decree No. 97-456 of May 5, 1997 (modified by decree No. 02-1346 of Nov. 12, 2002)."
Accordingly, "Zeturf (based and licensed in Malta) inflicts an obviously illicit perturbation to PMU by taking online bets without proper authorization."
The defendant, ZeTurf Society, was ordered to halt taking online bets on horse races organized in France, with a penalty of 15,000 euros per day. The appeal court confirmed the original judgment and increased the penalties for incompliance to 50,000.
Unlike bwin's situation, though, no one from ZeTurf was arrested.
As of Sunday, France-based pan-European sports broadcaster Eurosport had suspended the transmission of nearly 100 daily bwin commercials.
bwin's stock, meanwhile, is scheduled to resume trading Tuesday.