• 9 九月 2009
• The Wall Street Journal Europe
• By Mike Gordon And Adam Cohen
EU states given leeway to start online gambling
LUXEMBOURG—The European Union’s highest court Tuesday ruled that a Portuguese state-run charity’s gambling monopoly is legal if it aims to combat criminal activity, a decision that could have broader implications for online betting in other EU countries.
The ruling could give governments of EU member states a green light to restrict Internetbased gambling services. Earlier court rulings on online betting in Italy said limits on these services violated EU rules.
Tuesday’s case related to a sponsorship deal the Portuguese football league signed with Gibraltar-l i censed betting company BAW International Ltd., a subsidiary of betandwin.com operator Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG. BAW paid the Liga Portuguesa de Futebol for the right to place the Web site’s logo on players’ uniforms, around the stadiums and on the Liga’s Internet site.
The Direccao do Departamento de Jogos da Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Lisboa, a Portuguese state charity that has a broad national monopoly covering electronic betting and lotteries on television, radio and the Internet, fined the Liga OE75,000 ($107,565) and Bwin OE74,500 for infringing on its monopoly.
Liga and Bwin appealed these fines before a Portuguese court, arguing that EU rules ensure companies can provide goods and services freely across the bloc’s borders. The court hearing the case decided to ask the European Court of Justice to give its interpretation on the application of EU law.
The Luxembourg court ruled Tuesday that free movement of goods and services can be restricted if the public interest is at stake.
“ Games of chance involve a high risk of criminal activity or fraud, in view of the scale of the earnings and the potential winnings on offer to players,” the court said in its decision. Because there is limited direct contact between gamblers and online-betting services, there is a “different and more substantial risk of fraud compared with traditional markets for such games,” it added.
Internet-based gambling operators are currently involved in a slew of court cases and regulatory disputes over access to markets such as Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Greece, whose states monopolize some betting activities.
“ It is difficult for us to understand the rationale that crime is more difficult off-line than online,” said Bwin spokesman Kevin O’Neal. “The betting scandals like point shaving in U. S. college basketball and some of the [football] scandals in Germany all happened in the off-line world.”
Mr. O’Neal said Bwin wants to work with governments to ensure that online gambling is regulated and safe for consumers. He added that countries like the U.K., France and Italy have a more open policy, opting for “ liberalization and regulation, as opposed to just regulation.” Shares in Bwin were down 5.8% in afternoon trading.
“必赢”和葡萄牙足球联盟因为侵犯了Direccao do Departamento de Jogos da Santa Casa de Misericórdia de Lisboa这家葡萄牙国家运作的慈善博彩公司对葡萄牙电视、电台和互联网赌博和彩票的专营权利而分别被处以74500欧元、75000欧元的罚款。
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