EU court ruling favours remote gambling

In a ruling that will provide some good news for remote gaming companies and perhaps pave the way for further expansion across the borders in Europe, the European Court of Justice has ruled that Italy cannot prosecute establishments who provide gambling services on behalf of remote gaming operators.

The ruling relates to a case brought by Italy state officials who claimed Massimiliano Placanica, Christian Palazzese and Angelo Sorrichio were taking illegal bets on behalf of Stanley Leisure because the UK-based company did not hold a local betting licence.

However, Stanley argued that under EU conditions, their UK licence should be applicable to all EU countries, in line with the opinion of one court aide. Advocate General Dámaso Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer said in May of last year that licence from one member EU country showing it meets local requirements there, should be “a sufficient guarantee of the integrity of the operator”.

The ruling will also help to clear up the ambiguity of laws pertaining to the operation of remote gaming companies in foreign countries, who often seek to protect their own state-run monopolies. France, Israel and Germany have all made moves recently attempting to restrict and essentially erase the presence of remote gaming companies in their country.

Stanley Leisure remarked that this was a ‘landmark decision’ that will cause many EU countries to sit up and rethink their protectionist policy on gaming.

“We think it's time that the commission and national lawmakers act now to end this protectionism,” said Adrian Morris, deputy director-general of Stanley Leisure.

Many in the industry believe the ruling will signal the beginning of the end of gambling monopolies in Europe.

 “This will accelerate the break-up of the existing monopolies in Europe,” said Peter Nylnader, chief executive of Unibet.

However, it may not be that simple. Although EU regulations state there must be a freedom of products and services that promote free competition across its member countries, it has always allowed state-run monopolies if they are there to provide a specific purpose, such as restricting gambling addiction, as in the case of Germany.

Though many may doubt the plausibility of this reason, especially the Austrian-based gaming company Bwin, Germany will remain a tough-nut to crack for remote gaming companies.

Nevertheless, this new ruling will provide some welcome optimism for an industry recently beset with nothing but bad news.

Editor, - 2007-03-06 12:11:24

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