Justice Advocate for the European Court – General Cruz Villalón – issued an opinion/statement last week regarding online gambling legislation for European Union members. This comes about due to a recent well-publicized court case – Costa and Cifone – where a UK betting company was stopped from receiving a local online gambling license in Italy. Basically the Judge has said that European Union Member States may not impose licensing restrictions against foreign-based online gambling operations.
We have a sixth-sense feeling, that this is going to have the affect of kicking another contentious EU online gambling hornets-nest.
When the Italian government blocked the UK online betting business – Stanleybet from obtaining an Italian license, this company was not going to take their rejection lying down. After all, the Italians had been gaily dispensing online gambling licenses to local companies. So, we are assuming they made a formal complaint to the European Court of Justice.
Findings from Advocate Cruz Villalón, say that measures such as these are not only completely against the true spirit of the EU, but also against the legislation and guidelines of the EU Treaty. The European Union Treaty states clearly that no participating country may adopt any legislation that could negatively impact the movement of goods and services freely between member states.
Justice Advocate Villalón stated that:
“National legislation which prevents any type of cross border gambling activity, irrespective of how this activity is exercised, is contrary to articles 49 and 56 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).”
He went even further to add that any nations laws which negate these provisions is actually not applicable, and it is this that leaves us confused as to the discretionary laws practiced by member states. For example Denmark, which country has recently enacted their own gambling laws and regulations, but do not allow operators from other countries to supply these services tot heir residents. Surely this also has a negative impact on the movement of goods and services freely between member states?
He made it very clear that in his opinion, European Union law is above all country’s national law, which is how we understood it to be. However there are still countries which are adopting legislation which goes against EU law. While Justice Advocate Villalóns’ statements have not yet been made official, he also said that the European Court of Justice may even force sanctions against countries which don’t comply.
Judge Villalón’s statement can only be made official if various other Attorneys in the EU Court of Justice agree; if they do, things will have to change. Not only will Italy be forced to issue licenses to Foreign Operators, other online gambling restrictions from country to country may be redressed. There are a number of UK online gambling operators with licenses in Italy, these are all on the form of JV partnerships with Italian companies.
While we understand that Italy is keen to protect their online gambling industry and players from unscrupulous online operators; Stanleybet did not wish to operate outside of their laws. They applied for a license and were turned down for being British!