|French betting operator Pari Mutuel Urbain has said it will take the UK's Sporting Bet PLC, Bet and Win, Stanley International Betting, and Malta's Mr Bookmaker to court for breaking its monopoly by offering bets on French events over the internet.|
Established in 1891, the PMU was granted a monopoly in 1930 in a bid by the government to protect the betting public by controlling the industry and preventing its takeover by mafia interests.
'These bookmakers are breaking the law of 1891. What they are doing is illegal. We are launching legal proceedings against them,' said Francoise Toussaint, a spokeswoman for PMU. ‘The four companies have recently launched French internet sites on which they offer odds on a range of French sporting events, including horse races and football matches.’
The four companies plan to defend themselves against legal action by an appeal to the European Union's Court of Justice, which in November 2003 forced Italy to drop similar proceedings against a British bookmaker, according to lawyers.
The European court ruled that as the Italian authorities were actively promoting betting via the state monopoly - and reaping large tax returns from the industry - they could not invoke the need to protect the public in order to prevent foreign competition.
'The question is whether the precedent will apply in France,’ said lawyer, Thibault Verbiest ‘We would have to establish that France has no coherent policy of keeping the betting industry within bounds.'