Horseracing monopolies may be justified: EU court

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In a case pitting an online gambling site against France's only horse-betting firm, Europe's top court said on Thursday that horse racing monopolies may be justified in order to fight gambling addiction.

A Malta-based company offering online betting, Zeturf, asked French authorities in 2005 to repeal a law granting a monopoly on horse-race betting to PMU.

France's high court, the Conseil d'Etat, then asked the European Court of Justice for guidance before ruling on the case.

"A monopoly on off-course betting on horseracing may be justified if it pursues the objective of combating the dangers linked to games of chance in a consistent and systematic manner," the European court said in a statement.

The Luxembourg-based court recalled that monopolies can exist to ensure a "particularly high level" of protection against the dangers of gambling such as fraud, money laundering and addiction.

The Conseil d'Etat must determine whether French authorities "genuinely sought" such a high level of protection and that creating a monopoly was necessary.

Private online gambling operators have sought for years to break national monopolies in the 27-nation European Union.

Under pressure from the European Commission, the EU's antitrust watchdog, several countries including France have opened the industry to competition.

© 2011 AFP

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