Bwin comments on court findings

Online gambling giant says EU law has failed to keep pace with the development of online commerce

The Vienna-listed online gambling group Bwin has added its arguments to those of the European Gaming and Betting Association regarding the European Court of Justice's finding on its legal clash with the Portuguese state gambling monopoly Santa Casa (see previous InfoPowa report).

The finding, which in essence said that subject to certain public interest conditions EU member states had a right to maintain gambling monopolies despite the 'free passage of goods and services' principles, has created mainstream press headlines around the world following its publication earlier this week.

Bwin's football sponsorship advertising deal with a Portuguese league triggered Santa Casa litigation in a Porto court, which referred the issue to the ECJ for guidance.

In its statement, Bwin commented that the ECJ had overlooked the fact that respectable private providers such as Bwin are just as able to control gaming in the Internet context as state monopolies. The group said it did this by using an IT-based medium, which meant that "...higher security standards can be met to warrant customer protection and fraud control in particular”.

The gambling group drew attention to its commitment to the Code of Conduct for private online gaming providers developed by the European Gaming and Betting Association, explaining that this “...stipulates strict controls which, given the transparency of the Internet, have proven more efficient than those of traditional brick-and-mortar gaming.” The statement also drew attention to the European Sports Association, which itt said was a an effective guard against betting manipulation.

Co-chief executive at Bwin, Manfred Bodner, was outspoken in his criticism that EU law has not kept pace with the growth of the Internet. He opined that the laws governing the Union would have to be updated if it was to be effective in dealing with real developments in technology and commerce online.

“Online gaming has become a market reality," the Bwin executive said. "There is urgent need to develop a legal framework in tune with the times to warrant the interest of consumers, the state and operators. Court rulings will not be able to fill in for a regulation in the medium and long run.”

Co-chief executive Norbert Teufelberger agreed, saying: “Only a regulated online gaming market with a diversified and attractive line-up of games will provide adequate security against the risks of a black market, which in fact not only opens up the floodgates to crime, but also passes up on consumer protection. This is why a growing number of EU member states, including Great Britain, Italy and France have reacted [by regulating-ed.].”

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