22 October 2008

Online betting and gaming: Opinion of the French Advocate General on the Portuguese gaming monopoly in the bwin Liga case

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomes today’s opinion by the Advocate General in a betting case involving EGBA member bwin and Portuguese monopoly Santa Casa da Misericórdia (SCML) in the context of bwin’s sponsorship deal with the Portuguese professional football league.

Whereas the Gambelli and Placanica cases in 2003 and 2007 dealt with sports betting concessions in Italy, today’s conclusion by the Advocate General addresses the legitimacy of the Portuguese gambling monopoly. It is in line with the jurisprudence of Gambelli and Placanica and supports the arguments already put forward by bwin and EU licensed operators.

Answering a key question, the Advocate General stated that the extension of the monopoly to internet activities should have been notified to the European Commission and therefore will not be applicable against bwin and the Liga, and the national court must decline to apply it.

According to the French Advocate General Bot, the Portuguese monopoly on the internet may comply with Community law if certain conditions are met.

According to Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of the EGBA: “Considering the facts in the present case, we strongly believe that those conditions are not met and that the Portuguese monopoly is not consistent with EU law”.

Former Advocate General Alber comments: “All conditions and controls can equally be fulfilled by EU licensed private operators”.

Indeed, a monopoly is not necessary to fight crime and to protect consumers as evidenced in multi-operator and regulated jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, Malta or Austria.

Today’s opinion takes place in the context of an increasing number of requests for preliminary rulings (17 in total) to the ECJ by national courts and at a time when the Commission in parallel is to decide whether to refer a number of Member States to the ECJ over the compatibility of their gaming legislation with EC law.

This opinion is not binding on the ECJ and the EGBA expects the final ruling on the case in the beginning of 2009.

press release of EBGA, 14 October 2008