Dutch ruling encourages HK jockey club
By Paul
A court ruling in The Netherlands has encouraged the Hong Kong Jockey Club in its battle to protect its betting from foreign Internet bookmakers. The major UK bookmaker Ladbrokes has agreed to block its Netherlands-based punters from placing Internet sports bets at its web site after a decision in favour of Dutch operator De Lotto. The court ruled Ladbrokes held no license in Holland and made no social or charitable contribution in Holland, as De Lotto does.

The decision has important ramifications for betting in Hong Kong. The Chinese jurisdiction passed Betting Ordinance amendments last May with the aim of keeping offshore betting operators from eating into Hong Kong-based betting turnover.

“The case establishes a precedent and is going to impact on how Internet operators are able to do business. This is a significant step in Europe and I expect other racing authorities will be looking at a similar solution,” the Hong Kong Jockey Club's executive director of racing, Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, said.

Ladbrokes agreed to close its sports betting site to Dutch punters, though a spokesman said it would have little impact on turnover. De Lotto, which has expanded from its state monopoly lotteries into sports betting, brought the case to fight what it considered unfair competition.

John O'Reilly, head of Ladbrokes.com, told the Racing Post in England he expected a legal battle: “Our argument is there should be a single market, with freedom to provide services across national borders. We have an issue in European Union law, which, in our view, currently enables member states to protect their revenues, but only on social grounds. It may be reasonable if a country doesn't want gambling to proliferate, but we don't believe it's reasonable if they are protecting tax revenues from betting. It doesn't happen with other services.”

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