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Dutch Gaming Monopoly to Face ECJ Test Today

12th November 2009 9:25 am GMT

British betting providers Betfair and Ladbrokes will take a step closer to resolving their respective disputes with the Netherlands government today over their right to provide betting services to Dutch citizens, when the European Court of Justice convenes to consider their cases.

Betfair's case (C-203/08) centres on the principles of the European Treaty, in particular, Article 49, which entitles the company to accept bets from the Netherlands because Dutch residents are allowed to bet online with the Dutch state operator.

Betfair has previously stated that to be told it cannot accept bets without a Dutch licence, after twice being denied the opportunity to apply for such licence by the Dutch state, is "legally unsustainable".

The legal proceedings began in 2004 and is separate but running in parallel with Betfair's complaint against the Dutch government's attempt to block financial transactions between Dutch customers and the online betting exchange.

For Ladbrokes today's case (C-258/08) represents another step in the bookmakers seven year battle against an injunction by the Dutch courts prohibiting it from accepting bets from Dutch citizens.

"Ladbrokes is a well regulated, licensed betting and gaming operator and under Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union our services should be accessible in other Member States," said John O'Reilly, Ladbrokes' Managing Director of Remote Betting and Gaming.

"The injunction against Ladbrokes is aimed at protecting the revenues of the Dutch state monopoly sports betting provider and there is no justification for it in European Community law. It does not make sense that a Dutch citizen can cross the border into Belgium to place a bet in a Ladbrokes shop, yet we are banned from accepting bets from Dutch citizens online," he said.

Betfair for its part has vowed to sue the Dutch government if its case is successful at the ECJ, estimating that the claim for damages could run into millions of Euro.

While the two cases will be closely followed by those in the online gaming industry, judgements in the cases are not expected sooner than 6-12 months from today.

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