Tuesday April 8,2014 : BWIN EXECS IN LINE FOR A FRENCH FINE?
Founders Teufelberger and Bodner could be hit with a Euro 40,000 for historical alleged online gambling offences.
In the days before online gambling was legalised in France, Bwin founders Norbert Teufelberger and Manfred Bodner found themselves in conflict with the French authorities over soccer sponsorships with French clubs and other online gambling activity.
Those disagreements have persisted to the present, and a recommendation by a French court in Nanterre this week that a Euro 40,000 fine be imposed on the two online gambling executives.
Back in 2006 the French companies dominating the French betting landscape, La Française des Jeux and Pari-Mutuel Urbain, complained about Bwin's online gambling activities in the country.
Although the companies subsequently withdrew their complaints, French prosecutors continued to investigate, and the two online gambling executives were briefly detained whilst launching the Bwin sponsorship of a Monaco soccer team The case, which involves allegations of wrongdoing going as far back as 2003, has continued to lumber along despite the radical changes to the internet gambling scene in France that have taken place. These have included Bwin being among the first companies to acquire French online gambling licenses.
It looked as if the matter would finally be brought to a conclusion in September 2013, when a court hearing was scheduled, but flaws in communication meant that Teufelberger and Bodner did not present themselves before the court.
The matter was rescheduled to this month, when the duo would have an opportunity to put forward the company's view that there was no wrongdoing and that its activities have always been in compliance with European Union law and principles, and opinions by the European Commission appear to support that view.
The news broke this week that the French court – perhaps prematurely, bearing mind Bwin's claims of innocence and the lack of a judicial hearing of its case – has recommended the imposition of a Euro 40,000 fine.
How Bwin handles this situation will be watched with interest; in 2012 the company also faced trouble with the authorities in Belgium over its online activities in that country, a situation which it resolved by reaching an agreement with Belcasinos, a Brussels casino group owned by Partouche, to offer Party-branded online gambling under licence from the Belgian Gambling Commission.