France dragging their heals in online gambling dispute

France, who are currently in negotiations with the European Union (EU) regarding their gambling monopoly, are not willing to loosen their rules on online betting but may be willing to offer some flexibility with regards to horse race betting.

France has been given a stern warning from the European Commission (EC) over their gambling monopoly which is preventing foreign gambling companies (still based in the EU) from operating in the country.

France budget minister, Eric Woerth, is due to meet the EC’s Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy to discuss a way forward. However, Woerth has warned that France will not completely acquiesce.

"We are not opposed to a certain opening but we will remain firm on certain points," Woerth told a French newspaper.

"Just because an operator is recognised in a foreign country is no reason for us to have to open our gates to them in France. We intend to keep control of authorisations.”

The talks are due for February and March next year. However, Sigrid Ligne, secretary general of the European Gaming and Betting Association, is wary that France may just be stalling.

“Negotiations have been taking place since June. Promises have been made, but no concrete solutions nor concessions have been made. All of this in the context of criminal procedures such as the Unibet one (referring to the arrest of Unibet chief executive Peter Nylander),” said Mr Ligne.

"We hope that talks of a controlled opening are real and that the Commission received serious guarantees from France and that today's discussion is not there to buy time once again."

In the meantime, France has made assurances there will be no more arrests similar to that of Mr Nylander, who was arrested following a complaint by one of France’s gambling monopolies, Francaise des Jeux, over Unibet’s operations in the country.

Editor, - 2007-11-07 11:09:19

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