|France's top court has added to pressure from the European Commission for an end to the State’s monopoly by overturning a decision that banned a Maltese company from offering online betting on horse races in the nation.|
Under European Union (EU) rules, limits to competition, even those stemming from limits on gaming as a special or exclusive right, cannot be justified, and the court, the Cour De Cassation, said such restrictions can be used only to block gambling companies from criminal or fraudulent activities by channeling them through controllable avenues.
The Paris court has sent the case against gambling company Zeturf brought by Pari Mutuel Urbain (PMU), the French monopoly operator of betting on horse racing, sports, lotteries and other forms of gambling, back to the appeals court for a rehearing.
The judges also stated that the appeals court had not sought to discover whether the French government was upholding the monopoly simply to increase state revenues while PMU said in a statement that the debate remains open.
Sports betting and gambling are State-owned monopolies in many EU countries and generate large amounts of revenue for government coffers but frustrate attempts by private-sector rivals to compete for business. The European Commission has threatened to sue France, Sweden and Greece in the past for blocking foreign betting companies and ending such monopolies could see companies such as bwin Interactive Entertainment of Austria and Stanley Leisure, the British casino operator owned by Genting, compete with French providers.