Wednesday, August 31, 2005Contact: Maurits Bruggink
Blow to illegal online gaming in Holland & EU

Today, a Dutch Court ruled that Dutch online gaming restrictions are compatible with EU law. It orders bookmaker Ladbrokes to stop its online services to Dutch citizen with a €10K penalty per day for incompliance.

The ruling confirms that there is no European Union obligation for member countries to open up their gaming and betting market.

The IFHA welcomes this decision as it believes in the national integrity of countries to set their own gambling laws and policies. The fact that online activities are harder to police than terrestial equivalents does not mean that we have to accept a free market for these sensitive services. The new internet requires law and order.

Since 2002, Ladbrokes challenged De Lotto’s exclusive license to offer online games of chance to Dutch residents. In an intermediary ruling last year, the Court still asked some critical questions to the Minister of Justice about the compatibility of the government’s gaming policies with EU (case) law. Dutch policies allowed advertising for gaming services and Ladbrokes argued that this was not compatible with EU case law (inter alia the “Gambelli case”). According to EU case law, state monopolies or restrictive gaming policies can only be tolerated if they aim to restrict gaming. The Dutch Court ruled today that the Dutch gaming policy aims to fight gambling addiction and to restrict gaming.

Ladbrokes could still appeal to the judgment, but it already lost its intermediate cases at the lower and Supreme Court. Today’s ruling therefore seems to halt unlicensed betting in Holland and will likely have a positive effect on the positions of license holders in other European countries. The position of national license holders has been strengthened by a number of legal cases already in Norway, Germany, Sweden and France.

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