Eye on Europe - 10 April 2007

10 April 2007

Ethics Heavyweights -- Last week the German Lotto- und Totoblock (DLTB), the association of the 16 German state lotteries, established its "Ethik-Beirat," a council that will advise the state lotteries in ethical questions regarding gambling and games of chance. The DLTB is setting up the body to strengthen its efforts to provide effective customer protection and prevent the spread of excessive gambling. The members of the advisory council are heavyweights: Renate Schmidt, a member of the Bundestag and former federal minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth; Barbara Stamm, vice president of the parliament of the state of Bavaria and former Bavarian minister for social affairs; and Dr. Rudolf Seiters, president of the German Red Cross and former federal minister of the interior.

German Gambling Monopolies -- The ministers of the German federal states decided in December 2006 to preserve the state monopoly on gambling. The reason, they say, is to protect consumers from gambling addiction, and by doing this the are following the leading decision of the Federal Constitutional Court in March 2006, which stated that the monopoly is legal if its aim is strict consumer protection. And according to Dr. Friedhelm Repnik, director of the Staatliche Toto- Lotto GmbH Baden-Württemberg and coordinating figurehead of the DLTB, "The European Court of Justice has confirmed (via the Placanica ruling in March 2007) the legitimacy of gambling monopolies." The "Ethik-Beirat" (mentioned above) is one of several anti-gambling addiction measures launched immediately after the ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court. This year the DLTB has begun cooperating with the Federal Centre for Health Education to complement the measures with health organizations at the federal states level.

Poker Skill -- Russian Sports Minister Slava Fetisov on March 16 classified poker tournaments as official sports competitions rather than games of chance. It is a significant decision because it may permit poker tournaments to be exempted from a new bill to tighten controls on casino gambling and ultimately ban casino gambling--with the exception of four special zones. Sponsored by President Putin, the bill was passed in November 2006 and goes into effect in 2009. Fetisov's decision could also mean that casinos may no longer have to pay US$4,800 per poker table per month (on top of wages and complimentary food and drinks provided), which makes it very expensive to offer poker games. This could lead to a poker boom, but of more immediate concern to poker in Russia, the gambling bill includes a July 2007 deadline for shutting down any gambling business with net assets below $23 million and any casino smaller than 800 square meters--many of which host poker games. So the important question yet to be officially answered is: Will poker tournaments--and, by extension, all commercial poker games--become exempt from the new gambling bill and escape being banished to the four fringes of Russian-sanctioned casino gambling zones?

What's In A Shirt? -- Jörg Wacker, director of bwin Germany, plans to start several court cases against the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Bayern, concerning the prohibitions of board and shirt advertising during televised home football matches of second leaguer TSV 1860 Munich and first leaguer Borussia Dortmund. Above that, famous Italian soccer team AC Milan, whose main sponsor is bwin, is playing this Wednesday in the quarterfinal for the Champions League in Munchen vs. FC Bavaria Munich. The Bavarian free state has already stated that the match will not be broadcast if the AC Milan players wear bwin's shirt advertising. The first leg, played in Milan, came after many nerve-wrecking discussions and negations and was ultimately broadcast in Germany. For football lovers, the result was Milan 2, Bayern 2.

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.