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CJ: Swedish sanctions for gaming adverts cannot discriminate against EU operators


08 Jul 2010



 Brussels, 8 July 2010: Today, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) rendered a preliminary ruling (1) addressing questions relating to the compliance of Swedish gaming legislation with the EU Treaty.

While Swedish gaming law currently allows operators licensed in other Member States to offer internet gaming services in Sweden, it prohibits the promotion of these services through Swedish media. Under this law the chief editors of two leading Swedish newspapers “Expressen” and “Aftonbladet” are subject to criminal sanctions for carrying advertisements from gaming operators licensed in other Member States, but would only face lighter administrative fines for carrying advertisements for unregulated Swedish operators.

Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of the EGBA, said: “We welcome the unequivocal confirmation that Member States cannot discriminate against EU gaming operators. The Swedish advertising restrictions also affect leading national media that are very dependent on advertising sales and which are unfairly deprived of substantial sources of revenue.”

She added, “The Court will not resolve the challenges that are raised by the Internet. It is up to the legislator to embrace the reality of online gaming and betting in Europe. Italy, France and the UK have introduced online gaming legislation and Denmark is set to follow suit in 2011. We are confident that the Swedish and other governments will do likewise. Proper regulation can bring about greater consumer protection, more competition and benefit other sectors such as sports and the media”.

Sigrid Ligné concluded, “As more Member States are regulating the market, it will be crucial to avoid the emergence of a patchwork of legislation in the EU. We fully support the Green Paper process (2) the European Commission is going to start into the cross-border issues of gaming. We call upon the Commission to ensure that the full potential of the Internet is used to create consistent customer protection and fraud control throughout the EU.” 

In relation to the Swedish law, the ECJ confirmed today previous case law by concluding in particular :

    * “National legislation is moreover appropriate for ensuring attainment of the objective pursued only if it genuinely reflects a concern to attain it in a consistent and systematic manner. In any event, those restrictions must be applied without discrimination (Para. 40 of the ruling in joined cases C-447/08 and C-448/08)

    * “ (...)  if the persons carrying out the promotion of gambling organised in Sweden without a licence incur penalties which are less strict than those imposed on the persons who advertise gambling organised in other Member States, then it must be stated that those arrangements are discriminatory and that the provisions of Paragraph 54(2) of the Lotterilag are contrary to Article 49 EC and, consequently, unenforceable against the persons being prosecuted in the main actions” (Para.56 of the ruling in joined cases C-447/08 and C-448/08)

    * “The answer to the first question is therefore that Article 49 EC must be interpreted as precluding legislation of a Member State subjecting gambling to a system of exclusive rights, according to which the promotion of gambling organised in another Member State is subject to stricter penalties than the promotion of gambling operated on national territory without a licence. It is for the referring court to ascertain whether that is true of the national legislation at issue in the main actions” (para. 57 of the ruling in joined cases C-447/08 and C-448/08 )

- ENDS -

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Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of the EGBA: +32 2 554 08 99


(1) The preliminary ruling system (under Article 267 TFEU, ex-Article 234 of the EC Treaty) enables national courts to ensure uniform application of EU law in all the Member States. The ECJ has jurisdiction to give preliminary rulings on the interpretation of EU law in relation to specific legal questions raised by the national courts. In such rulings the Court makes every effort to give a reply which will be of assistance in resolving the dispute, but it is for the referring court to draw the appropriate conclusions from that reply in a final decision.

(2) A Green Paper released by the European Commission is a discussion document intended to stimulate debate and launch a process of consultation, at European level, on a particular topic. It may be followed by a White Paper, an official set of proposals for future EU legislation. A Green Paper on gambling is expected to be published by the European Commission in the autumn 2010.

About EGBA:

The EGBA is an association of the leading European online gaming and betting operators, BetClic, bwin, Digibet, Expekt, Interwetten, PartyGaming and Unibet. EGBA is a Brussels-based non-profit association. It promotes the right of private gaming and betting operators that are regulated and licensed in one Member State to a fair market access throughout the European Union. Online gaming and betting is a fast growing market, but will remain for the next decades a limited part of the overall European gaming market in which the traditional land based offer is expected to grow from € 70,5 Billion GGR in 2009 to € 76,5 Billion GGR in 2012, thus keeping the lion’s share with 86,2% of the market. Source: H2 Gambling Capital, January 2010. 



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