HAVE THE DANES FOLDED ON GAMBLING MONOPOLY?
HAVE THE DANES FOLDED ON GAMBLING MONOPOLY? Danske Spil's exclusivity days could be numbered The Danish government has apparently responded positively to a European Commission 'reasoned opinion' issued over a year ago regarding the monopolistic gambling nature of the state-owned Danske Spil organisation. This week European media reports under the header 'Unibet Welcomes the Danish Tax Minister’s Will to End the Era of Monopoly' published a press release from online gambling group Unibet's CEO Petter Nylander congratulating the Danes and pledging to work together to create a "modern, regulated and responsible Danish gambling market." "We are looking forward to, together with the Danish government, creating a modern, regulated and responsible Danish gambling market", Nylander, CEO wrote before giving details of the earlier EC ruling.. Denmark received a reasoned opinion from the European Commission in mid-March 2007. The opinion advised that the EU considered that the restrictions on the sports betting market imposed by Denmark and other member nations are not compatible with existing EU law and that the measures taken to restrict these services had not been shown to be necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory (see previous InfoPowa report). The opinion opened the way for litigation against Denmark in the European Court of Justice should the monopolistic policies continue. Under the Danish Pools and Lottery Act (tips- og lottoloven), Danske Spil has hitherto been the only enterprise that can lawfully offer games, lotteries and bets to Danish gamblers. Section 10 of the Act expressly lays down that no one except Danske Spil may offer games defined by the Act in Denmark. And no person or entity except the licensee may arrange for participation in such games offered by anyone other than Danske Spil. The Danske Spil exclusivity has led to the prosecution of both competing gambling companies interested in the Danish market and even newspapers carrying gambling advertisements. It has also attracted the attention of the European Commission under its EU treaty compliance responsibilities. In its reasoned opinion of March 21, 2007, the Commission unequivocally asserted that the Danish Pools and Lottery Act is incompatible with Article 49 of the EU Treaty, and that the measures taken in Danish law to restrict the free movement of sports betting services are unnecessary and disproportionate. The Commission warned the Danish state that it could find itself before the European Court of Justice if it did not respond to the non-compliance opinion. Denmark has continued to drag out a solution, along with other member nations such as Germany, France, Finland, Hungary, Greece, The Netherlands, Italy, Austria and Sweden. However, in recent months there has been a noticeable softening in resistance to the EU requirements, especially from Italy, France and (apparently) now from Denmark, together with more cautious approaches in The Netherlands and positive legal rulings in Germany.