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Finnish Lottery Changes Could Further Breach EU Law

February 12, 2009 (InfoPowa News) — The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has welcomed the European Commission's decision to issue formal comments against proposed changes to the Finnish Lotteries Act. These changes, if implemented, would increase the extent of the breach of European Union law that is already the subject of an EC infringement procedure, the Association claims.
The European Commission has already objected to the existing Finnish gaming legislation in March 2007, when it issued a “Reasoned Opinion” — the last procedural stage before a referral to the European Court of Justice.
The new Finnish draft provisions introduce even further restrictions on indirect marketing of gambling services for operators without a Finnish license, as well as fines and prison sentences of up to two years for both media and online gaming companies operating or marketing such activities. These additional restrictions are, however, not aimed at enhancing consumer protection in a consistent and systematic manner as they will not apply to the Finnish government’s own gambling activities, which will still be allowed to conduct extensive and aggressive marketing campaigns. RAY (the Finnish Slot Machine Association) has even announced its intention to launch an internet poker site later this year, EGBA notes.
Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General at EGBA, says: "This shows all too clearly that the Finnish authorities have for the past two years — during which the Commission has been delaying Finland’s referral to the ECJ – enhanced their protectionist legislation rather than removed it.”
“The rights of EU licensed gaming and betting operators as well as those of Finnish newspapers and media have been ignored for too long and the situation is only deteriorating," Ligne concludes. "The Commission’s patience has clearly not paid off.
"We now call on the Guardian of the Treaty to defend our rights and to bring Finland to the ECJ.”
The Finnish changes to the lotteries act were notified to Commissioner Verheugen’s services and Member States under Directive 98/34/EC in November 2008. The notification procedure is aimed at preventing Member States from creating new barriers to the internal market freedoms by giving the opportunity to the Commission and Member States to evaluate the content of a draft law before it is adopted.