October 03, 2010

Betsson challenges Danish "black period"

Betsson is to delay its decision on whether to apply for a licence in Denmark until uncertainty has been removed over the Danish government’s proposed “black period”, requiring applicant operators to cease all activity in the market until approved.

Betsson AB chief executive Pontus Lindwall: “Betsson opposes strongly the proposed 'black period' and we have notified the [European] Commission that in our view such a rule is against EU law.”

The “black period” was inserted in the Danish draft law by the Danish parliament last June, ostensibly to protect the market share of monopoly incumbent Danske Spil against unregulated private operators. The draft law also contains provisions for IP and payments blocking against unlicensed operators.

Although the issuing of licences in Denmark has been delayed until 11 October, when the European Commission (EC) standstill period for review of the draft law ends, the Danish government could conceivably implement the “black period” from this date, should the EC not raise questions over this section of the bill. Operators which have so far confirmed their intention to apply for licences include Ladbrokes, Bet24 and Centrebet.

Lindwall added: “Further, we believe that the tax is in the high end of the spectra and with such a high tax rate it will be crucial to “protect” the market from unlicensed operators, which Betsson believes is technically very complex if not impossible.”

Thomas Petersen, chief operating officer of Bet24, which will be applying for a licence “even though the 20% and yearly fees are higher than we had hoped for”, also cited sanctions against non-licensees as a “crucial factor.”

Peterson said: “On this issue the Danish Gaming Authority still awaits the EU Commission. Though it is not beneficial for the Danish consumers, operators without a licence must be effectively blocked from the Danish market or else we will have to re-evaluate our position.”

Richardt Funch, Ladbrokes Nordic country manager for Denmark, pointed out that if the Danish government went ahead and introduced IP blocking and the black period, Danish punters could conceivably be left with no casino and no poker, “as Danske Spill don’t offer this.”

Lindwall at Betsson also said he saw “no reason” to keep certain products, including lottery, horse race bets, bingo, scratchcards and keno, within the sole remit of Danske Spil, as proposed under the law currently under review by the EC.

“Usually the Ministry of Finance argues about player protection, but I guess in this case they may as well admit straight out that they keep certain games local due to financial reasons. Which again is against EU law,” said Lindwall.

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