Austrian Online Gambling Case – In Favor of State Monopolies?


09/12/2011
By Maria McCoyGoogle

 

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled this week on a court case between the Austrian authorities and Bet-at-home.com, a multinational gaming group founded by two Austrians.   The group’s licenses are given by Malta, which the Austrian officials claim does not adequately protect consumers. Therefore, they say that the Bet-at-home.com founders broke the country’s laws against online gambling.  According to the ruling, the ECJ found “the obligation on persons holding concessions to operate gaming establishments to have their seat in Austria constitutes a restriction on freedom of establishment.” What is interesting in all this is that both parties seem to feel that the ECJ decision was in their favor.

 

Malta is member of the EU and therefore the ECJ felt that because of the regulatory system that connects the 27 EU nations (Malta and Austria included), that they could indeed protect Austrian citizens.  The issue is also combating an Austrian gambling monopoly, which would naturally be opposed to operators going outside of Austria to purchase gambling licenses. 

 

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) interpreted the ECJ’s ruling a bit differently saying that it called for more stringent rules against state gambling monopolies (insinuating that Malta itself was the problem). The laws in place are to protect online player protection and only allow a “moderate” amount of advertising.  The judges pointed out that any advertising is not consistent with protecting players from problem gambling.

 

The EGBA’s response is that the EU hasn’t been able to guarantee a high level of consumer protection and therefore the need for a monopoly is necessary. 


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