Landmark Online Gaming Decision in EuropeBy: Shirley Spicer, Wednesday January 27th 2010
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In a specific case that had come up the EU Advocate General gave a decision that will have far reaching impact on the online gaming industry in Europe. The decision was that EU law holds primacy over national legislation. He further confirmed that the primacy of EU law over national legislation was without exception and did not allow a transitional period for nations to start following the EU law. This implies that the EU countries have to immediately stop applying national gaming legislation where it is inconsistent with EU law.
One of the first to laud this decision was the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA). The EGBA is a trade association of the major names in the European online gaming industry. The importance of this decision to the online gaming operators is immense. Many European countries are violating EU law and supporting state owned online gambling monopolies.
The specific case in which this decision was given involved Winner Wetten, a German online gaming operator, before the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). Winner Wetten accepts bets on behalf of Tipico Co, which is established and licensed in the gaming jurisdiction of Malta. Within Germany North Rhine-Westphalia's law on sports betting in force since 2006 applies to Winner Wetten and the Court in Cologne has jurisdiction. This court held that North Rhine-Westphalia's law was inconsistent with the EU law on freedom to provide services as provided for in the EU Treaty and as interpreted in the Gambelli legal precedent. Therefore the court asked the EU Advocate General if governments can continue to apply for a transitional period gaming legislation that is not consistent with the relevant EU laws. The Advocate General replied in the negative as indicated earlier. He added that inconsistent legislation was "inappropriate for the protection of consumers."
EGBA Secretary General Sigrid Ligne said that this decision will be especially crucial for developments in Germany. The different German states are divided on the issue of online gaming and this opinion by the Advocate General will add support to the pro online gaming lobby. Taking the debate to a wider horizon Ligne said, "We agree with the conclusions of AG Bot. Essential is AG Bot's confirmation that it is detrimental to consumers to have national gambling legislation that doesn't offer consistent and systematic protection. Many Member States do not have consistent and systematic gambling legislation; this opinion clearly strengthens our argument." Ligne was obviously referring to countries that are proposing to introduce some kind of online gaming regulation under pressure from the EU, but are framing the legislation that is incompatible with EU laws.
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