France on Warning - Again

4 March 2008

The European Commission on Monday acted quickly to stop France from adopting a payments ban, not unlike the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, that would have required French Financial institutions to block payments from online gambling companies black-listed by the government.

The EC issued a 'detailed opinion,' which prevents France from adopting the decree before Mar. 31, 2008. But, if France proceeds with adoption after March 31, the EC can launch infringement proceedings.

The decree was filed under France's projet de loi sur la délinquance, (law on delinquency), which was passed in March 2007, and aimed at stopping the spread of delinquency among its youth. It was thought when it passed that it would one day include amendments to prevent online payments to Internet gambling operators.

On Feb. 22, 2007, France's parliament approved amendments 254 and 255, which allowed the ministries of Finance and of the Interior to forbid "for a period of up to six months and renewable, all movement or transfer of funds from physical or moral persons organising gaming, betting or lottery activities prohibited by the law of 21 May 1836 prohibiting lotteries and the law of 2 June 1891 that regulates horse racing, and law no 83-628 of 12 July 1983 in relation to games of chance," setting the stage for France's recent proposal.

Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), on Monday was pleased with the Commission's opinion.

"As demonstrated by the U.S. experience, such restrictions are difficult to implement, easy to circumvent, inefficient and foster the growth of an underground market," she said in a prepared statement. "This action consolidates the Commission's position that unjustified payment blocking in our sector clearly contravenes EU law. We welcome the Commission's action and hope that this will send a clear signal to other EU and EFTA Member States that such proposals will not be tolerated."

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