13 February 2009

Online gaming and betting: Proposed changes to Finnish lotteries act raise European Commission concerns even further

Brussels, 12 February 2009

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) welcomes the European Commission’s decision to issue formal Comments (1) against the proposed changes to the Finnish lotteries act. These changes, if implemented, would increase the extent of the breach of EU law that is already the subject of an EC infringement procedure.

The European Commission has already objected to the existing Finnish gaming legislation back in March 2007 when it issued a “Reasoned Opinion” the last procedural stage before a referral to the European Court of Justice.

The new draft provisions introduce even further restrictions on indirect marketing of gambling services for operators without a Finnish license, as well as fines and prison sentences of up to two years for both media and online gaming companies operating or marketing such activities. These additional restrictions are, however, not aimed at enhancing consumer protection in a consistent and systematic manner as they will not apply to the Finnish government’s own gambling activities which will still be allowed to conduct extensive and aggressive marketing campaigns. RAY (the Finnish Slot Machine Association) has even announced its intention to launch an internet poker site later this year.

According to Sigrid Ligné, EGBA Secretary General: “This shows all too clearly that the Finnish authorities have for the past two years - during which the Commission has been delaying Finland’s referral to the ECJ - enhanced their protectionist legislation rather than removed it”.

She concludes that: “The rights of EU licensed gaming and betting operators as well as those of Finnish newspapers and media have been ignored for too long and the situation is only deteriorating. The Commission’s patience has clearly not paid off. We now call on the Guardian of the Treaty to defend our rights and to bring Finland to the ECJ.”

The Finnish changes to the lotteries act were notified to Commissioner Verheugen’s services and Member States under Directive 98/34/EC in November 2008. The notification procedure is aimed at preventing Member States from creating new barriers to the internal market freedoms by giving the opportunity to the Commission and Member States to evaluate the content of a draft law before it is adopted.

(1) Comments issued by the European Commission in the context of the notification procedure mean that it considers that the text submitted raises issues or requires further details for clarified interpretation.

For further information on the Commission notification procedure, please see:

For further information or comment please contact:

Sigrid Ligné
+32 (0) 2 256 7527

About EGBA:

The EGBA is an association of the leading European online gaming and betting operators Bet-at-home.com, bwin, Digibet, Expekt, Interwetten, PartyGaming and Unibet. EGBA is a Brussels-based non-profit making association. It promotes the right of private gaming and betting operators that are regulated and licensed in one Member State to a fair market access throughout the European Union. Online gaming and betting is a fast growing market, but will remain for the next decades a negligible part of the overall European gaming market in which the traditional land based offer is expected to grow from € 85 Billion GGR in 2008 to € 93 Billion GGR in 2012, thus keeping the lion’s share with 88,1% of the market. Source: H2 Gambling Capital, January 2009.


No comments: