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Online Gambling Controversies in Europe

June 7, 2010 (CAP News Wire) – With so much of the mainstream media focused on U.S. online gambling laws and the implementation of the UIGEA last week, another story — just as big — has also been starting to get a lot of play.

In Europe, actually, several very significant events in the online gambling world have come to pass in recent weeks. But the biggest of these stories is that an official EU court recently ruled that European countries can legally ban online gambling, if they so choose.

The ruling is a “blow to the multi-billion euro online betting industry seeking to break domestic monopolies,” writes Foo Yun Chee in a Reuters report. The writer is referring to the recent trend of online gambling companies attempting to overcome national laws that restrict online gambling to home companies only.

The ruling comes from two separate challenges, both based in the Netherlands, and specifically involving Betfair and Ladbrokes.

“The grant to such an operator of exclusive rights to operate games of chance, or the renewal of such rights, without any competitive tendering procedure would not appear to be disproportionate in the light of the objectives pursued by the Netherlands legislation,” the Dutch court ruling stated.

There have been similar, though less far-reaching and therefore less widely reported, incidents in many other European countries as well.

Spain has called for the EU to tighten regulations on Internet gambling. In Denmark, a ruling was passed stating that Internet service providers (ISPs) could block access to certain types of sites that includes online gambling.

In Norway, the government has reportedly followed through with its own plan to block online poker financial transactions (a regulation very similar to the United States’ UIGEA).

On the other side of the coin, Italy has recently come to an agreement with EU authorities that will see it opening its online gambling market to other, non-Italian companies, reports GamingZion.

And in Greece, officials have hinted that they may be opening up their online gambling market to foreign companies (which would be connected, no doubt, to that country’s recent high-profile economic problems).

All this may soon lead to online gambling regulations on a European level, as opposed to nation-by-nation (which Spain is currently requesting). The EGBA, the European group that represents the online gambling industry, has actually “called on the EC to propose legislation at EU level, with infringement procedures against recalcitrant member states where necessary,” reports the Telegraph.

“The internet raises new questions and challenges that cannot be resolved through the judicial process,” said Sigrid Ligné, EGBA’s secretary general. And, according to the Telegraph article, she has “urged the Netherlands to follow the examples of Italy, Denmark and France, which have recently decided to liberalise their gambling markets.”