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Online gaming: Time for change in Europe


08 Sep 2010



In landmark ruling the ECJ concludes that the German sports betting and lotteries monopoly is unjustified and inconsistent

Brussels, 8 September 2010

Three preliminary rulings(1) handed down today by the European Court of Justice confirm that the “German rules do not limit games of chance in a consistent and systematic manner” and stresses that “national rules concerning that monopoly, held to be contrary to the fundamental freedoms of the Union, cannot continue to apply during the time necessary to bring it into conformity with (European) Union law” (ECJ press release 78/10).

The Court stresses in particular that “the holders of public monopolies carry out intensive advertising campaigns with a view to maximize profit from lotteries thereby departing from the objectives justifying the existence of those monopolies” (ECJ press release 78/10) .

The Interstate Treaty on Gambling that came into force in 2008 and was supposed to expire at the end of 2011 currently bans online gaming and betting activities in the country. In a recent study Gold Media concluded that the ban had no effect on the yearly 30% growth in consumer demand for online gaming and betting in Germany, but rather had pushed the consumer to portals operated outside of Germany. (2)

The ECJ rulings come at a time of intense political debate in Germany and other European countries on the existing gaming legislation. “More and more stakeholders are raising concerns with regard to the efficiency of a ban on online gaming and are calling on the government to overturn the Interstate Treaty. Their arguments will be bolstered by today´s rulings”, said Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association.

“When it comes to consumer protection, the prohibition of online gaming makes no sense. As a matter of fact, online gaming and betting is a popular leisure activity for millions of people. Neither a total ban nor a state monopoly are suitable to meet the aim of protecting consumers”, added Sigrid Ligné.

"There is a need for a political solution that does justice to the demand of consumers to play online and that at the same time ensures a high level of consumer protection. Other Member States have opened or are opening their markets and moving away from a monopoly regime to a multi-operator licensing system. They show that consumers can be better protected in a market that is both regulated and open to competition. It is now up to German politicians to draw the appropriate conclusions and take their responsibility towards their consumers”, said Sigrid Ligné.


1 C-409/06, C-46/08, C-316/07


For further information or comment please contact:

Sigrid Ligné: +32 2 554 08 90

About EGBA

The EGBA is an association of leading European 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.

Note to the editors:

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.

Infringement procedures brought by the European Commission (under Article 258 TFEU, ex-Article 226 of the EC Treaty) allow the ECJ to give a judgment with regard to the compliance of national legislations with EC law. Under such procedure the ECJ does not just give its interpretation of E law on specific selective questions but is able to have a broader analysis assessing as well the factual situation at stake. Seven Member States (Denmark, Finland, France, Sweden, Hungary, the Netherlands and Greece) are currently subject to an infringement procedure in relation to their gambling legislation and have already received a reasoned opinion, the last procedural step before the start of an infringement case at the ECJ.)