July 12,2012 : EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE RULES ON GAMBLING ADVERTISING
 
HIT Larix case provides marketing clarification for EU Member States
 
The European Court of Justice has ruled that an EU Member State cannot prohibit gambling advertising from another Member State merely on grounds that the protection guaranteed in that Member State is not identical to the domestic rules.
 
On 12 July 2012, the Court found in the HIT and HIT Larix case (C-176/11), an issue based on the rejection by Austrian authorities of an advertising permit application submitted by a casino operated in Slovenia.
 
The ruling provides a number of important clarifications on how Member States must address cross border gambling advertising:
 
* When granting advertising permits "the levels of protection for gamblers that exist in the various legal systems concerned must first be compared."
 
* A Member State can require that "the applicable legalization ensures protection against the risks of gaming that is in essence of a level equivalent to that which it guarantees itself".  But, it cannot require "the rules in the other Member State to be identical" to its own, which would be disproportionate.
 
In any case, Member States "cannot impose rules not directly related to protection against the risks of gaming". If Member States impose rules that protect incumbents, such provisions cannot justify restrictions of the freedom to provide services as decided in the recent Costa and Cifone ruling (C-72/10).
 
The ruling is a further illustration of the need for harmonisation of online gambling laws in EU States, the trade body European Gaming and Betting Association said Thursday, emphasising that its members adhere to the EGBA Standards and the Responsible Remote Gambling Measures set out by the European Committee for Standardisation, most of which surpass the requirements set out in national gambling legalizations.
 
EGBA Secretary General Sigrid Ligné said of the ECJ ruling: "It confirms that Member States cannot regulate the gambling market in isolation but need to take into account protection guaranteed by other Member States.
 
“Today's ruling once again shows that consumer protection rules for gambling are fragmented in the EU, which might be good for lawyers, but it´s certainly not in the interest of consumers. It highlights the urgency of European Commissioner Barnier´s proposal to develop a common European base of principles and measures of protection, so that all citizens are protected, wherever they are and whichever legal site they are connecting to.”