Not a Good Week for Europe's Anti-Monopoly Movement

2 September 2005

In addition to Wednesday's Dutch court decision in favor of maintaining the country's betting monopoly, two other European courts have delivered key verdicts in this area within the last week.

A Maltese court on Monday dismissed a claim by Malta-licensed remote gaming operator,, which was seeking an injunction to cancel an agreement between itself and Dutch betting and lotteries operator De Lotto. The agreement forbids Mrbookmaker from accepting wagers from Dutch citizens.

Meanwhile, a Norwegian appeals court overturned a decision from an Oslo gown court, which ruled that granting an exclusive license to operate gaming machines to state controlled Norsk Tipping is a violation of the European Economic Area's rules on free movement of services and freedom of establishment. The Appeals Court found that a policy that upholds a monopoly is appropriate if it generally increases state control on the spread of gambling and reduces the dependency of citizens on gambling.

Neither decision, however, is as crushing a defeat to proponents of the free trade of commercial remote gaming services as Wednesday's decision by the Arnhem District Court in the Netherlands--a ruling that ends a case initiated by Ladbrokes in 2002 against Dutch gambling monopoly De Lotto.

Joris van Manen, lead attorney for De Lotto, said the judgment "puts an end to a long battle, and De Lotto is clearly the victor." He added, "Ladbrokes may initiate appellate proceedings before the Arnhem Court of Appeal, but that court has already decided in favor of De Lotto in summary proceedings on two separate occasions. And the Supreme Court ruled in De Lotto's favor in February. Last year's interlocutory judgment caused a bit of commotion in the Parliament, but today's judgment has now put all that to an end. It now seems definitive that under Dutch law the offering of games of chance via the Internet is not allowed."

Ladbrokes has been ordered to cease making all of its online gaming offerings available to residents of the Netherlands. The company has not stated whether it intends to pursue an appeal. Similar cases initiated by foreign commercial betting operators remain in the Dutch legal system, but it appears that the judges will turn to Wednesday's ruling for precedence.

The permanent security of the Netherlands' policies--or any other state that maintains gaming monopolies--is not certain yet, however.

European Union Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy of Ireland is leading an effort in the European Commission to launch copyright infringement proceedings against the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Italy, Greece and Finland for denying gambling operators that are located elsewhere in the European Union from accessing their markets. A lack of consensus among European commissioners has prompted the commission to postpone launching the proceedings until possibly as late as October.

McCreevy says that action would only be taken following a debate between commissioners. According to Europe Information Services, as of July 26, about eight of the 25 other commissioners are opposed to removing national gambling monopolies in these states, including EC President Jose Manuel Barroso of Portugal, Development Commissioner Louis Michel of Belgium and Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot of France.

Bradley Vallerius

Articles by Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials. Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

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