Commission investigates national restrictions on sports betting

Following complaints from sports betting service providers, the Commission is set to verify the national restrictions on sports gambling in place in several EU member states.

The Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden requesting for information on their national restrictions on the supply of sports betting services. The Commission will check whether the restrictions are compatible with the EC Treaty article 49 guaranteeing free movement of services.

“The Commission has received a number of complaints from operators in the area of sports betting, and it feels obliged to respond. I don’t underestimate the sensitivities that exist in many member states on the question of gambling. In sending these letters of formal notice, we are not seeking to liberalise the market in any way,” said Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy.

“In the context of rising national protectionism in various member states, the European remote gambling industry welcomes the Commission’s strong determination to enforce Internal Market rules in this sector,” states a joint press release of the European Betting Association and of the Remote Gambling Association. Both associations believe that this investigation “sends a clear message to consumers, the industry and member states on the need to clarify the legal situation in this sector”. The European Parliament and the Council have decided to exclude gambling from the Services Directive.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has previously stated a member state can not restrict its citizens’ access to betting services if, at the same time, it encourages them to participate in state lotteries and games of chance, which benefit the state’s Finances. 

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