PMU bets on quashing UK online bookies in France

25th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 24 (AFP) - France's betting operator PMU on Thursday promised to take four foreign bookmakers - three British and one Maltese - to court for breaking its monopoly by offering bets over the Internet.

PARIS, March 24 (AFP) - France's betting operator PMU on Thursday promised to take four foreign bookmakers - three British and one Maltese - to court for breaking its monopoly by offering bets over the Internet.

"These bookmakers are breaking the law of 1891. What they are doing is illegal. We are launching legal proceedings against them," said Francoise Toussaint, a spokeswoman for PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain).

The four companies - Sporting Bet, Bet and Win and Stanley International Betting of Britain and Mr Bookmaker of Malta - have in recent months launched French Internet sites on which they offer odds on a range of French sporting events including horse races and football matches.

France established mutualised betting in 1891 and the PMU was granted a monopoly in 1930 in a bid by the government to protect the public by controlling the industry and preventing its takeover by mafia interests.

The foreign companies plan to defend themselves against legal action by an appeal to the European Union's Court of Justice, which in November 2003 forced Italy to drop similar proceedings against a British bookmaker, according to lawyers.

The European court ruled that as the Italian authorities were actively promoting betting via the state monopoly - and reaping large tax returns from the industry - they could not invoke the need to protect the public in order to prevent foreign competition.

"The question is whether the precedent will apply in France. We would have to establish that France has no coherent policy of keeping the betting industry within bounds," said lawyer Thibault Verbiest.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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