French Court Gives New Life to Mr. Bookmaker Case

21 January 2008

A French court has decided to review the criminal investigation of Mr. Bookmaker's former chief executive to determine whether the investigation satisfied the requirements laid down by European community law.

The case in question involves Didier Dewyn, now Deputy Chief Executive of Unibet, who in April 2007 was charged by French authorities with allegedly organizing an "illicit lottery" and "clandestine betting on horse races."

In an interview with IGN, Evelyn Heffermehl, a lawyer with Brussels-based firm Ulys, explained that the Court of Appeal of Versailles has referred Dewyn's case to the investigating magistrate (juge d'instruction), who is tasked with determining whether the criminal investigation meets the requirements of community law.

"The decision by the Court of Appeal referred the case back to the juge d'instruction to investigate further on grounds of EC law, which is actually positive in this respect for private operators," Heffermehl said. "The decision shows that the prosecution authorities in France are more European law compliant."

The European Gaming & Betting Association, which lobbies on behalf of Unibet, Partygaming and bwin, said it was "delighted" by the decision.

"It (the decision) is an important one and comes in the general context of the commitment taken by the French authorities to propose a controlled opening of the French gaming market by March 2008," said EGBA Secretary General Sigrid Ligné.

Heffermehl said that the case against Dewyn has been open since 2003.

Unibet acquired Global Leisure Partners Ltd., parent company of Mr. Bookmaker, for £75.9 million in August 2005.

Unibet would not comment on the decision, and IGN was unable to reach Unibet's lead attorney, Ewout Keuleers.

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.