Betfair is preparing to re-apply for a Dutch licence only two months after losing a five-year long court battle against the country’s monopoly De Lotto this summer.
Director of European public affairs Tim Phillips: “We are certainly planning to, but we are waiting for the impact of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling to filter down to the local courts before we get the opportunity. There is an ongoing review process taking place in the Netherlands and we are yet to see the results of that,”
Betfair and Ladbrokes’ long-running dispute against the Dutch authorities began in 2005 when they ruled that both operators should stop taking bets from Dutch citizens due to concerns about fraud. It ended in the authorities’ favour in June this year, when the European Court of Justice outlined that any online offering other than the incumbent monopoly can be restricted, even if operators are licensed in other EU countries.
At the time Betfair declared it would re-apply 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, to allow Dutch consumers to benefit from competitive bids for the Dutch market.
Betfair is also currently working with a French consultancy and will start talking to the French authorities in September to put its views across on the country’s high tax and protectionist regulations, Phillips said. Betfair has not applied for a licence with French regulator ARJEL as it considers the system to be unprofitable for foreign operators.
As it continues to ramp up its expansion in Europe, Phillips said the British betting exchange would apply for a licence in Denmark “as soon as we can” when the market opens at the beginning of 2011. He called Denmark a “good level playing field” compared to the French system and that the Scandinavian country is politically “much more open to new ideas”.
Phillips said Betfair has its product offering ready and is planning to enter the Danish market early next year once the market opens up.
Betfair is also in talks with the Greek government to discuss legislation there. This follows the chief of Greek monopoly OPAP revealing in June that such discussions were underway. “We will have to see if it works commercially, but we intend to apply [for a Greek licence]”, said Phillips. “Greece is more important size-wise than Denmark, but Denmark is good strategically because of the location and proper regulation”.
Betfair intends to apply for a licence in Spain later this year and in Germany, although Phillips said that the devolved governments in both countries could be obstacles. Part of the operator’s core strategy is emerging markets, currently in Europe and increasingly in the rest of the world: “South Africa, Asia and even Latin America”, he added.