Editorial: Cracks in EL Bulwark

20 April 2006

With membership spanning from Israel to Russia and from Iceland to Kazakhstan, the European Lotteries (EL), have for years and years accepted more members. As an influential, powerful group, it has been successful in defending its members' monopoly positions, and in doing so has prevented the introduction of the Country of Origin principle within the EU Service Directive, thereby enabling its members to block gambling services without violating EU policy.

This well oiled lobbying machine proudly represented 74 organizations across Europe, but now it represents two less.

Since the EL Congress in Rome in June of last year, the group has been silent about the fact that two prestigious members, Italian companies Lottomatica S.p.A. and Sisal S.p.A., were no longer members.

Some might say that it was about time that non-compliant EL members were dealt with. Several members ignore basic agreements of the EL, such as restrictions on operating in foreign jurisdictions, cross-border advertising and operating as profitable entities. Certain members have even been caught spying on competing lotteries.

But the departure of Lottomatica and Sisal was not part of any long-overdue housecleaning effort, as no members have been suspended or recommended for expulsion. And if you wanted to investigate online whether the group's standards have been breached, you won't find much because its Code of Conduct has been missing from its Web site for months.

The truth is that during the latest executive committee in Rome, the two Italian gambling companies proposed a new candidate for the executive committee from Monopoli di Stato, which was not well known in the EL surroundings. The EL was willing to accept Pierro Alberti of Italy, but the Italian powerhouses, Lottomatica and Sisal, were not satisfied. Within an hour, the two companies came up with a letter renouncing their membership.

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.