BWIN DEFENDS ONLINE GAMBLING IN SLANDER CASE Austrian online gambling group strikes back for the industry The Vienna-listed online gambling group Bwin has revealed that it has taken the organisers of the French Open tennis tournament to court for slander in a legal counterattack following litigation to ban Internet betting at the Grand Slam tournament. The case dates back to February this year, when the tennis organisers filed complaints in Belgium and Paris claiming that computer betting companies stain the reputation of the clay-court championship. "Following claims by the French tennis federation that services offered by online sports betting operators present a danger to the ethics of sport, Bwin is suing the organisers of the French Open for damages before a Paris court," a Bwin statement advised. A Belgian court in Liege heard arguments in the case last Friday and is expected to rule before the French Open starts on May 25. The issue of integrity in tennis surfaced last year when an online betting site – Betfair.com – voided all wagers on a match in Poland between fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko and 87th-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello because of irregular betting patterns. The French federation is suing Bwin, Betfair and Ladbrokes – demanding a court injunction to stop these companies from taking bets on the French Open. It seeks a fine of Euro 50 000 euros a day for any violations (see previous InfoPowa report). Bwin spokesman Antoine Costanzo claims that the head of the French tennis federation made slanderous comments when he launched the court case and that his company seeks Euro 1 million in damages as a consequence. Bwin claims legal standing because it is a major provider of online gaming entertainment. Countering the allegations of French Open organisers, the European Gaming and Betting Association said that the Internet is an excellent tool to trace any irregularities in betting operations. The organisation, which has most of Europe's top online gambling companies among its members, said Internet operations left "…a perfect audit trail, one that can, where appropriate, be shared with regulators and other authorities in order to trace bets and hence provide valuable evidence in the fight against fraud." French Open organisers said that betting companies are tainting the reputation of the tournament and unfairly using it as a way of making money. They argued that if a match-fixing scandal hit the French Open, it would undermine the value of the tournament, which in 2007 had revenue of Euro 118 million and attracted 450 000 fans to Roland Garros. The EGBA insisted betting companies stood to lose just as much. "Any match-fixing would penalise bookmakers severely as they take financial risk when setting odds for all sporting events," it said in a statement. Vienna-based bwin has said it was confident it would be able to stave off the legal challenge, insisting it does no more than offer a fair and legal service. Along with football and horse racing, tennis is among the most popular sports to bet on in Europe.