A recent preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice has dealt a blow to commercial online gaming operators seeking to offer their products in multiple jurisdictions. The decision seemingly opens the way for E.U. member states that wish to run their own online monopolies and exclude competitors.
The case involved the Portuguese gaming monopoly Santa Casa and Austria-based online operator Bwin. Santa Casa accused Bwin of entering into an illegal sponsorship and advertising arrangement with Portugal’s pro soccer league, claiming the deal was not allowed because Santa Clara has the monopoly on lottery and sports betting in Portugal.
In a statement, the ECJ said that keeping commercial operators out “may be regarded as justified by the objective of combating fraud and crime.”
The court cited a high risk of fraud associated with gambling, and said that online betting brings with it an even greater risk.
Reacting to the news, Bwin said in its own statement, “However, the court overlooks the fact that respectable private online gaming providers such as Bwin are just as able to control gaming on the internet as state monopolies.”
The statement continues: “As founding member of the European Gaming and Betting Association, Bwin helped develop the compulsory Code of Conduct for private online gaming providers. This code stipulates strict controls which, given the transparency of the internet, have proven more efficient in the internet than in traditional brick-and-mortar gaming and, in particular, conclusively prevent any type of fraud.