Online Gaming and Betting/ Unibet-MrBookmaker case: The Court of Appeal of Versailles orders access to the Reasoned Opinion and the hearing of the Secretary General for European Affairs
The access to the Reasoned Opinion, previously refused by the instructing judge, has been requested by the defendants for months as a key piece of evidence. This confidential document lists all the violations of EU law that the European Commission holds against the French gambling legislation, in particular with regard to the Française de Jeux and PMUs monopolies on online sports and horse betting.
The Court of Appeal of Versailles today issued long awaited decisions in the criminal proceedings initiated in 2007 against Petter Nylander, CEO of the online gaming company Unibet, listed on the Stockholm Stock Exchange and holding licences in Italy, Malta and the UK, and Didier Dewyn, former CEO of Mr Bookmaker.
By deferring its judgement allowing the litigants to have access to the Reasoned Opinion addressed by the European Commission to France on June 27, 2007 (1) and seeking to hear for the first time in this case, a high civil servant, Gilles Briatta, Secretary General for European Affairs, the Court of Appeal reaffirms existing doubts regarding the compatibility of the French gaming legislation with European Law.
EGBA welcomes these decisions as an important development in the cases against Petter Nylander, Didier Dewyn and other European CEOs, who have been subject to arrests - including the use of an European Arrest Warrant – and indictments.
According to Sigrid Ligné, Secretary-General of EGBA, “These decisions raise once more the fundamental question of the legal base of these criminal proceedings. The infringements the European Commission listed in its Reasoned Opinion against the French Law shall also allow it to evaluate the compliance of the forthcoming draft bill with European law.”
The decisions follow the judgement of the Court of Appeal of Versailles dated January 18, 2008 in the proceedings engaged against Didier Dewyn, which requested additional information regarding the compliance of the French Law with EU Law and in particular access to the Reasoned Opinion addressed by the European Commission to France.
EGBA recalls that doubts regarding the French legislation’s compliance with European law have not only been voiced by the European Commission, but have also been confirmed by the Court of Cassation on July 10, 2007, by the State Council on May 9, 2008 and finally by the French Government itself in the context of the announced reform of the gambling law. To maintain an indictment based on the alleged infringement of such legislation would imply accepting the concept of preventive indictment, which is impossible under French law.
The EGBA recalls that these decisions come at a time when the European Commission has been waiting for 21 months for a new French bill which is expected to put an end to the multiple infringements of EU law and in particular to the “criminal sanctions [that] have been threatened or imposed on the chief executives of sport betting companies licensed in other Member States” (http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/07/909&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en). If the draft bill is not formally notified to the European Commission services in the shortest timeframe possible, the European Commission may move to the contentious stage of the infringement proceedings and refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.
press release of EGBA European Gaming & Betting Association