|Ladbrokes last week lost its court case with De Lotto in the Netherlands, in a development which could have negative implications for the online gambling industry in Europe. The decision could be a precedent for sovereign states to legally block foreign gambling sites. |
The Dutch Court of Appeals ruled that Ladbrokes may not offer bets to Dutch citizens over the internet without a Dutch license and must therefore block their access to its Internet and telephone services. The ruling favoured the government-operated De Lotto company, which brought the case against Ladbrokes.
Ladbrokes argument was that the Dutch laws were invoked to exclude it from the Dutch gambling market, thereby inhibiting the free movement of services within the European Union. Ladbrokes said it had a fundamental right to offer services across borders just as mainstream businesses do.
The Court ruled against the EU proposition and found that no violation of the EU Code had taken place because these were based upon social well being and the need to prevent gambling addiction and fraud. The Court of Appeals denied the Ladbrokes request to have the case heard by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
Ladbrokes could still appeal the decision at the Dutch Supreme Court, and the online gambling industry will be watching with interest.
Joris Van Manen, legal counsel for De Lotto in the Ladbrokes complaint, said: 'This is quite important because we had settlements with a lot of foreign parties offering internet gaming', he said. 'The agreement was that they would shut down their sites for Dutch users until the decision was rendered in the Ladbrokes case. And it will be a long time before any other decision will be rendered because if Ladbrokes goes to the Supreme Court it will take three to four years, and if they go further into full scale court proceedings it will take some years, especially since they want the case to be referred to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg'