DUTCH SETBACK FOR UNIBET
DUTCH SETBACK FOR UNIBET Netherlands appeal court supports prior local ruling The dispute between Dutch gambling monopoly De Lotto and London-based online betting firm Unibet over access to Dutch gamblers could escalate to a higher European court following an appeals court decision against Unibet in the Netherlands last week. The appeal was launched by Unibet following a decision by a court in Utrecht last October to impose punitive fines on Unibet for its continued advertising and attempts to facilitate Dutch wagering on football games. De Lotto laid the charges which resulted in the court ruling against Unibet, ordering it to stop taking bets from Dutch citizens and imposing a non-compliance penalty of Euro 100 000 per day up to a maximum of Euro 3 million. Unibet contended that in terms of European Union treaty obligations it was entitled to access the Dutch market. Earlier this month a judge in Utrecht provisionally ordered Unibet to immediately cease its Dutch activities in interim proceedings that the Dutch Lotto company again instigated. This week a De Lotto spokesman claimed the monopoly has prevailed in the appeal, although confirmation on this was not yet available from Unibet. Media reports from the Netherlands indicate that the appeal ruling is the 17th occasion on which Dutch judges have ruled against EU companies seeking to access the Dutch online gambling market. The appeal court ruling is of particular interest in that it noted that its interpretation of the law differed from the European Union treaty calling for free movement of goods and services between European Union member nations. The Dutch appeal court is reported to have acknowledged that the European Union did not share its opinion on the issue and that proceedings against the Netherlands over access to the Dutch online gambling market are likely to occur. Going back as far as 2006 the European Commission has urged Dutch compliance with the EU trade accords, and it has recently increased the pressure. Continued non-compliance could result in the issue being escalated to the European Court of Justice. Commenting on the appeal finding, De Lotto director Tjeerd Veenstra remained adamant that his company would not back down: "Illegal gambling threatens both the integrity of the sport as well as donations to the sport and other good aims. That is the reason why [De Lotto] fights rock hard for the conservation of these interests." Since its establishment in 1961, De Lotto has made substantial donations to Dutch sport totalling Euro 1.1 billion, the company has repeatedly asserted.