Reasoned Opinion Brings Nouvelle Vie to Old Criminal Case in France

12 February 2009
A recent decision in the French criminal case involving two European gaming executives could be crucial to their chances of escaping prosecution.

The case dates to 2007, when Didier Dewyn, the former chief executive of Mr. Bookmaker, and Petter Nylander, chief executive of Unibet, were both charged by French authorities with organizing illegal gambling activities related to lotteries, horseracing and advertising.

On Feb. 6, the Court of Appeal in Versailles granted Mr. Dewyn and Mr. Nylander access to the reasoned opinion issued against France in June 2007 by the European Commission. That opinion sets out how the commission envisions French gambling law complying with European Community law.

Sigrid Ligné, secretary general of the European Gaming and Betting Commission, told IGamingNews Thursday that having access to the opinion -- a confidential document -- will strengthen the case for the two men.

"It's a way for them to evince that the French legislation, on which their arrests and procedure were based, is considered not compatible with EU law by the commission," said Ms. Ligné, whose association lobbies Brussels on behalf of commercial operators, including Unibet.

The reasoned opinion was previously requested by Mr. Dewyn in January 2008, but the instructing judge -- who oversees the procedural aspects of the court -- ultimately refused to grant access to the document, purportedly because it was confidential, Ms. Ligné said.

With the reasoned opinion, she said, the court can better understand any inconsistencies between French and European law, and make a more accurate determination as to how those inconsistencies impact both men's cases.

Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.