More precise EU legal guidelines and an important precedent could be achieved following a decision this week by the Dutch Supreme Court to refer the long-running Ladbrokes vs. De Lotto litigation to the European Court of Justice.
Ladbrokes has challenged the Dutch gambling monopoly for its exclusion of gambling services from companies in other EU member states in terms of the requirement for free movement of goods and services. In 2002 De Lotto obtained an injunction from a local court that prevented Ladbrokes from accepting sports bets from Dutch citizens.
The Dutch Supreme Court has referred the following three questions to the ECJ to guide them on how they should deal with the case in the context of European law.
* Under European case law (Gambelli etc.), can De Lotto make the offering of gambling attractive through the introduction of new games and through publicity in order to keep (potential) gamblers away from illegal offerings?
* Does the national judge in each case have to decide whether the application of the national policy re gambling (e.g. in this case an order to block a website) in each specific case is justified?
* Can a [EU] member state on the basis of a closed licence system prevent the offering of gambling via the Internet by a company who has a licence in another member state?
Ladbrokes head of e-gaming John O’Reilly, says: “We have fought for six years against Dutch protectionism and finally we have won the referral to the European Court of Justice. At last the Dutch courts have recognised that [Dutch] laws on betting must be viewed in the context of European law.
"Under the Treaty of Rome we should be able to provide our services across borders in competition with the Dutch monopoly, but at the moment we are unfairly prevented from doing so.”
The Netherlands has been particularly stubborn regarding any opening of its gambling market to other nations and currently faces reasoned opinions from the European Commission, which has warned the government that it could find itself before the ECJ for restricting access to its gambling and sports betting markets.