Wednesday, January 05, 2005Contact: Maurits Bruggink
Holland: e-gaming cases reach decisive phase

After a couple of court rulings at the end of last year, the litigation around the licensing of online gambling in Holland has come to a decisive phase. In a European context, these cases could also set a precedent for other EU Member States.

In December, the court in The Hague ruled against betting exchange Betfair, who wanted to stop the renewal of the exclusive online gaming license to the national Lotto. Betfair has itself applied for the license, but was unsuccessful.

A few weeks earlier, again Betfair and two other internet gambling operators lost a case in appeal against, again, the Lotto. The higher Court of Arnheim ruled that the Dutch gaming law and policy is not in contradiction with European case law, notably the so called “Gambelli” and “Zenatti” rulings.

The European courts have ruled that gambling monopolies can be justified if they aim to protect public order and consumers and to prevent money laundering. They can not be justified if the monopoly’s and government’s policy aims at the same time to increase consumer spending. The latter can be demonstrated for example by increased advertising spending. In laymen’s language, the Dutch court said that national gaming monopolies can advertise for their services, but not too much.

The Court in Arnheim also made some other interesting rulings:

  • Exchange betting can not be considered as a “game of skill”, but is a game of chance.
  • Internet gaming license requirements are much higher in Holland than in the UK, Cyprus or Austria. This leads to an unauthorised competitive advantage.
  • The foreign internet gaming operators must make it impossible for Dutch residents to gamble on their sites.

    The ruling in a similar Dutch court case between the Lotto and bookmaker Ladbrokes is expected for March/April this year. Should that confirm the position of Dutch monopolies, it would make further litigation unlikely.

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