Eye on Europe - 5 July 2007

5 July 2007

In This Industry: Always Two Winners! -- Some weeks ago, the EFTA Court dealt with a case initiated by Ladbrokes, which is currently pending before the Oslo District Court.

By its action, Ladbrokes essentially challenges the Norwegian regulation of the entire gambling and betting sector, namely: (1) the Gaming Act, which establishes a monopoly for the state-owned company Norsk Tipping for the operation of games such as Lotto and sports betting; (2) the Totalisator Act, which is the legal basis for the exclusive right of operation of hors-race betting granted to Norsk Rikstoto, a state-controlled foundation; and (3) the Lottery Act which provides that minor money games like Bingo and scratch cards may only be operated by non-profit organizations and associations with a humanitarian or socially beneficial purpose.

As is so often the case, both parties won.

Dr. Winfried Wortmann, President of the European State Lotteries and Toto Association, welcomed the court’s decision.

"Whatever the claims of commercial operators in the pages of the press have been over the past months and years," Wortmann said. "The EFTA Court has made clear once again that gambling service providers need a license from the State in which they want to offer their services and advertise. European law does not require the mutual recognition of operating licenses."

"The ruling leaves no doubts about the importance of adhering to the fundamental rights provided by the articles of the European Economic Area--freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services" echoed Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA). "The EFTA Court interpretation proves that national laws providing a state-owned company with the exclusive right in the area of gaming and betting are not justified per se."

Click here to view a copy the EFTA ruling.

Click here to view a copy of the accompanying press release from the EFTA.

Bingo: Smoke at Home -- Sweden-based software provider Boss Media has developed a new bingo software platform, featuring high-score lists, refer-a-friend programs, team play and tournaments.

The platform's release comes amid the English smoking ban, implemented July 1. Boss' new platform may interest operators looking to negotiate non-smoking legislation active in nine European countries.

In 2004, Ireland was the first European country to introduce a public-places smoking ban, reported Bloomberg on Sunday. Sweden, Italy, Malta, Belgium, Finland, Lithuania and Portugal followed, with full or partial bans.

Bans in France, Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands and Switzerland are pending, and are expected to be enacted within the next two years, the news service said.

Just this week, Mecca Bingo operator Rank said it would install outdoor shelters with gambling machines at its bingo clubs.

History does not bode well for the smoke-free halls. Rank officials have reported that this year’s revenue fell by 5 percent in bingo clubs in Wales and 10 percent in Scotland since a smoking ban came into effect in those countries. Although outdoor expansion and the deployment of portable electronic gaming machines has the company optimistic about the future, officials have warned that the upcoming ban could "hold back profit performance."

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.