The highest court in the European Union (EU) admonished Germany last week for its restrictions on gambling and stated that the nation’s current restrictions breach European Union laws and do not comply with the bloc’s rules governing trade.
The verdict from the European Union Court Of Justice could open the way for foreign gaming firms to establish a foothold in the multi-billion dollar German market.
“The German rules on sporting bets constitute a restriction on the freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment,” read the Court’s verdict.
“The public monopoly of the organisation of sporting bets and lotteries in Germany does not pursue the objective of combating the dangers of gambling in a consistent and systematic manner.”
The Court stated that intensive advertising campaigns by German monopolies alongside policies designed to encourage casino games were all designed to maximise profits and, as such, were inconsistent with the stated objective of protecting the public interest.
“In such circumstances, the preventive objective of that monopoly can no longer be pursued so that the monopoly ceases to be justifiable,” read the verdict.
Among those that welcomed the Court’s ruling were the European Gaming And Betting Association (EGBA), a lobby group whose members include PartyGaming and Bwin.
“This is a landmark ruling, which will have a decisive impact on the much needed reform in Germany,” said Sigrid Ligne, Secretary General for the EGBA.
“Other member states have opened or are opening their markets. They show that consumers can be better protected in a market that is both regulated and open to competition.”
However, the European Lotteries Association, a lobby group for national lotteries in 40 nations, claimed that the ruling would not necessarily lead to a liberalising of the German market.
“Contrary to how proponents of liberalisation would like to interpret these rulings, the Court today did by no means advocate a liberalisation of gambling,” said Friedrich Stickler, President for the European Lotteries Association.
“On the contrary, the Court reminded Germany that it has to control more strictly the offer of dangerous forms of gambling such as casino games and gaming machines. The Court also pointed again to the higher risks associated with Internet gambling.”