A seven-year court battle between foreign gambling operators
and the Dutch state is starting to come to fruition. Companies such as UK
operators Ladbrokes and Betfair have been fighting for years to offer their online sportsbooks in the Netherlands.
They have faced strict opposition from the Dutch state monopoly De Lotto, which
currently controls all sports betting operations in the country. For years the
EU has been pressuring the Dutch government to dissolve the monopoly, insisting
that by not allowing foreign operators to offer their services within the
Netherlands, the country is breaking EU fair trade rules.
The tables, however, may now be turning in the other
direction. Yves Bot, a senior legal advisor at the European Court of Justice,
recently made a non-binding statement suggesting that European Union member
states are not in any way required to recognize the betting licenses of foreign
companies. Ladbrokes and other foreign sportsbook operators have in the past
relied on the fact that they already operate massive online betting operations
in countries around the world as leverage to entice the Dutch government to
grant them a license to offer internet
betting in the Netherlands. Now in
light of this recent statement from a major EU court, this might not be a valid
approach any longer.
The Dutch government refuses to embrace foreign gambling
operators under a rubric of public safety. They believe that by tightly
controlling all sports betting and other gambling in the country, they are
effectively keeping problem gambling under wraps. Bot further suggested that
this justification might be enough to keep foreign gambling companies out.
Ladbrokes managing director John O’Reilly states, “There is
no logic in the fact that the Dutch monopoly could freely compete against us in
the U.K., but we are prevented from accepting bets from any Dutch resident that
finds us on the Internet.”
No official ruling has been made, though in the past EU
court has made a decision within six months after such a statement by an