Another day, another online gambling ruling in the European Union.
This one, handed down by the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) yesterday, was in relation to bet-at-home.com’s right to offer its online gambling services to Austrians.
Backed by the Maltese government, bet-at-home.com contended that their Maltese license was sufficient to allow them to operate in the Austrian market and compete with the local monopoly operation. Austrian authorities disagreed. So did the ECJ.
In it’s ruling the court said:
“When assessing the proportionality of a monopoly, the national courts are not required to take into account the monitoring and control systems regulating companies established in another member state….A member state may legitimately wish to monitor an economic activity which is carried on in its territory, and that would be impossible if it had to rely on checks made by the authorities of another member state using regulatory systems outside its control.”
It’s another strike for advocates of an open online gambling market across the EU, consistent with the single market services doctrine (ie the private EU-licensed operators), and a win for monopoly gambling operations fighting to protect their local markets. European Lotteries group president Friedrich Stickler hailed the decision as the “final blow” for “those that keep on calling for ‘mutual recognition’ of gambling licences between member states.”
Final blow might be a bit dramatic, particularly with EU-wide reforms being considered presently, and a number of EU members adopting a regulatory rather than prohibitive approach. It does however serve as another reminder that this is a very fragmented I-gaming market.