ECJ strikes down German gambling restrictions

8 September 2010
The European Court of Justice (ECJ), Europe's highest court, ruled Wednesday that German gambling restrictions breach European Union law.

The ECJ said in three separate rulings that restrictions that limit sports betting and lotteries to state-run monopolies were "unjustifiable" in Germany because the country had "intensive advertising" of its gambling operations, according to the BBC.

"The German rules on sporting bets constitute a restriction on the freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment," the court said. "The public monopoly of the organization of sporting bets and lotteries in Germany does not pursue the objective of combating the dangers of gambling in a consistent and systematic manner."

The European Gaming and Betting Association, a lobbying group that represents PartyGaming and bwin, called the decision a "landmark ruling."

"Other member states have opened or are opening their markets... They show that consumers can be better protected in a market that is both regulated and open to competition," the group said in a statement.

European Lotteries, a lobbying group for national lotteries in 40 countries, cautioned that this ruling might not open up the German market, according to the BBC.

"On the contrary, the court reminded Germany that it has to control more strictly the offer of dangerous forms of gambling such as casino games and gaming machines," the group said in a statement. "The court pointed again to the higher risks associated with Internet gambling."

Stock prices for bwin, PartyGaming and Germany's Tipp24 each rose more than five percent in trading Wednesday.