Betfair and Ladbrokes to take on the Dutch government tomorrow in two separate landmark legal battles at the EU’s highest court, the European Court of Justice (ECJ), over the right of offer egaming in the Netherlands.
For Betfair, the case follows a formal complaint made to the European Commission in May about a letter from the Dutch government to banks telling them to block payments from the British betting exchange’s Dutch customers, arguing that the letter was in breach of EU rules which allow companies authorised in one European Union member state to offer goods and services in any other.
If the case is successful, Betfair will also sue the Dutch government for damages that legal counsel Mark Warrington told EGRmagazine.com “will certainly run into millions.”
For Ladbrokes, the ECJ hearing will decide the fate of end of the British bookmaker’s seven-year struggle against an injunction imposed by Dutch courts that prevents Ladbrokes from accepting bets from Dutch citizens on Ladbrokes.com, which was referred to the ECJ in June.
Ladbrokes remote betting and gaming managing director John O’Reilly said: “Ladbrokes is a well regulated, licensed betting and gaming operator and under Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union our services should be accessible in other Member States.
“The injunction against Ladbrokes is aimed at protecting the revenues of the Dutch state monopoly sports betting provider and there is no justification for it in European Community law. It does not make sense that a Dutch citizen can cross the border into Belgium to place a bet in a Ladbrokes shop, yet we are banned from accepting bets from Dutch citizens online.”
As reported on EGRmagazine.com, however, in September the ECJ ruled against Bwin in favour of Portugal’s right to continue to favour state monopoly La Santa Casa da Misericordia (SCM), permitting states to protect state operators from competition if that decision is made to protect citizens from fraud or other crimes.
The decision led Ladbrokes to drop its five-year legal action against Norway’s state monopoly, although it also pledged to unite with other operators to fight other state monopolies across Europe.
The judgements in these two cases are not expected for 6-12 months.