01/10/2012 : PORTUGUESE LEGAL DEFEAT FOR BWIN.PARTY (Update)
Six year battle's latest development
Since 2005 Europe's largest online gambling group, Bwin.party.digital entertainment, has been embroiled in a legal tussle with the Portuguese gambling authorities over its advertising, sponsorship and marketing activities in the country, but Monday saw the company suffer a setback.
A local court ordered that Partypoker remove all Portuguese advertising and cease all Portuguese sports sponsorship activities, on grounds that it is operating illegally in terms of Portuguese law.
The ruling could prove expensive for both Bwin.party and the sporting clubs and publications that it supports; the company has a significant presence in Portugal and has invested considerable amounts of money in its marketing efforts.
Perhaps more alarmingly, the case could set off a chain reaction against other online gambling companies operating in the country, acting as a legal precedent against their operations. For example, Betclic sponsors a range of Portuguese clubs including Sporting Braga, while Betfair is also active in the sector.
Bwin.party currently sponsors the Taca da Liga competition to the tune of Euro 4 million.
The sponsorship agreement with the Portuguese Football League (LPFP) is now under threat, and almost immediately following the court ruling, the League indicated its intention to appeal the decision, claiming the judgment could threaten the health of the national game.
However, in the meantime the LPFP has advised: “As of Monday, the Portuguese professional football league is obliged to remove all advertising that refers to Bwin.”
The Portuguese Casino Association, allied with the national lottery operator Santa Casa are the major Bwin opponents behind litigation that has become a running battle over several years. These competitors argue that Bwin.party has an unfair advantage as it is not taxed or subject to Portuguese gambling regulations.
Bwin.party's position is that the court's decision is in conflict with European Union law; a spokesman noted: “One cannot aggressively advertise and expand games on the one hand and keep foreign competition out on the other hand.”
Eduardo Serra Jorge, a legal representative for Bwin.party, observed: “It is time for the state to legislate and tax online gambling instead of banning it. Regulating it is in the interest of the consumer, the economy and the state budget.”