Court rules German state gaming monopolies 'unjustifiable'

8th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

European judges ruled on Tuesday that German laws protecting state monopolies for gambling are not "justifiable," opening the door to a huge protected market for a host of online betting firms.

"The public monopoly of the organisation of sporting bets and lotteries in Germany does not pursue the objective of combating the dangers of gambling in a consistent and systematic manner," the European Court of Justice said.

Restrictions of the sort employed by many countries under the formative years for online gaming can be justified if public interest "such as preventing incitement to squander on gambling and combating gambling addiction" is proven.

But the Luxembourg-based referee found for German courts that had already ruled that the blocks were not applied in a "consistent and systematic manner," deciding that "intensive advertising" meant that "the monopoly ceases to be justifiable."

The court was called to rule in cases pitting regional authorities from central Hesse and northern Schleswig-Holstein against foreign operators Happybet Sportwetten and Web.coin of Austria, Malta's Tipico, Britain's Happy Bet and Gibraltar's Digibet.

Europe's highest court has frequently handed down setbacks to online betting sites, ruling that member states are allowed to ban them from operating to help combat fraud and protect consumers.

However, several EU countries, including France, have started opening up their gaming sector under pressure from Brussels regulators -- although moves towards proposed legislation was left off a priority list given to media this week and is unlikely to be brought forward until later next year.

© 2010 AFP

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