June 04, 2010

Betfair and Ladbrokes lose battle against Dutch monopoly

Betfair and Ladbrokes have failed to topple Dutch lottery and betting site De Lotto’s monopoly, following the decision published by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) this morning.
The court’s ruling stated that any online offering other than the incumbent monopoly can be restricted, even if operators are licensed in other EU countries, until egaming laws are harmonised across the EU.

The judges said: “The mere fact that an operator such as the Ladbrokes companies lawfully offer services in that sector via the internet in another member state is not a sufficient assurance that national consumers will be protected."

Betfair however declared following the ruling that it will be applying for a licence in the Netherlands “at the first opportunity”, after the court confirmed its long-stated view that sports betting licences in the EU should be allocated in a transparent and equal manner, allowing Dutch consumers to benefit from competitive bids for the Dutch market.

The decision upholds the December opinion of Advocate General Yves Bot, and is the latest round in Ladbrokes’ and Betfair’s long-running battle with the Dutch authorities since 2005, when they ruled the operators stop taking bets from Dutch citizens, citing concerns with monitoring fraud.
Betfair also said in its statement today that the court’s reiteration of points from previous cases that online betting is more dangerous than traditional offline forms had been “made without foundation”.

Betfair’s director of European public affairs, Tim Phillips said: “Until we get a clear lead from the Commission, gambling consumers will continue to be told that their preferred leisure activity is the only one in Europe which doesn’t benefit from an open market. ECJ rulings are not addressing the simple fact that consumer choice between regulated products is being dictated to in a manner which no other industry has to accept.”

Philips however welcomed the European Commission’s announcement of a Green Paper on online gambling, which he hoped would provide “an opportunity to address these key issues.”
Today’s ruling acts as a guidance for the Dutch courts, which will need to reach a final decision on the case. Their decision is expected towards the end of this year.

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