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European Court of Justice Ruling Viewed as a Setback for Online Gambling Liberalization

14 July 2010 by Devon Chappell

Nevermind the ruling, I want to know which judge is missing from their seat!

Nevermind the ruling, I want to know which judge is missing from their seat!

“Discriminatory” is a tricky word. In fact, it’s trickier than the the word tricky itself. You see, an entire European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling rests on this lone, yet powerful word. And I’m not talking about just any ruling. As you might guess, this being the Online Casino Suite Blog and all, said ECJ ruling pertains to online gambling activities.

Said ECJ ruling is also a big blow to liberalizing online gambling laws in Europe, and consequently, centralizing regulatory protocols. Although the ruling is specifically applicable to advertising, the larger principle of the matter conjurs up the notions of protectionism – something many EU member States know all too well.

This time around, Sweden is at the heart of the ECJ case which ruled that a national ban in Sweden against advertising offshore internet betting services could be imposed on religious, cultural and/or moral grounds, so long as such as ban was not “discriminatory” (there’s that magic word) in practice. The ruling further stated that Swedish legislation prohibiting the promotion of online gambling services by operators in other EU member states for profit is “consistent with Community Law.”

On a side note, the one component of the ECJ ruling that could be seen as a small dent to protectionist activities in Sweden states that laws imposing administration penalties on Swedish-based gaming companies operating without proper licensing credentials need to reflect current laws imposing criminal sanctions against offshore operators advertising in Sweden. In other words, everyone needs to play by the same rules.

The ECJ is certainly no stranger to cases pertaining to cross border gambling activities. Being a relatively young and lucrative industry, contention is practically a given. There is lots of money to be made on the internet, and even more at gambling. So, it’s pretty understandable when outside operators swoop in to profit, yet return nothing back to that particular economy.

With regulation, this is not so much an issue. However, now that more European countries are regulating online gambling, they are doing all they can to profit the most off their specific constituents. In other words, state-run operations are the way to go if a government is seeking more than just licensing fees from outside online operators.

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