In a licensing dispute with the Norwegian government that has been running since 2004, when it was refused a gambling licence, Ladbrokes has lost its case in an Oslo court this week. The court found that the Norwegian authorities had acted in compliance with European Union law in declining the licence.

The UK gambling group had contested the refusal of a licence by the Norwegian government, which holds a gambling monopoly in the Scandinavian country through Norske Tipping. Ladbrokes based its case on the European Union Treaty of Rome and the European Fair Trading Agreement.

The court ruled against Ladbrokes, effectively banning it from the Norwegian market and requiring the company to pay legal costs of Euro 130 000.

Norway's Minister of Culture and Churches, Trond Giske, described the victory as a significant achievement for Norway as a welfare state and as an affirmation of its gaming law.

"The verdict sends an important message that supports the European tradition that each individual country has the most effective control of its own gambling market," he said.

Ladbrokes spokesmen described the result as disappointing and revealed that the judgement was being studied with a possible appeal in mind.

"We will continue to challenge state owned monopolies, which in our view are detrimental to both gamblers and society," a spokesman said.

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