The 2008 European Gambling Briefing in London this week saw conflicting opinions expressed on the controversial issue of state gambling monopolies.
Whilst many delegates supported European Commission efforts to open up the gambling markets of those EU member nations with state monopolies, there were those – notably the Dutch – who opposed the abolition of such highly lucrative sources of state revenues.
The recently resigned CEO of the Swedish state monopoly Svenske Spel, Jesper Karrbrink, said that in a deregulated European market he was confident that state monopolies could compete effectively. Fellow Swede and MEP Christopher Fjellner was critical of the current legal uncertainties surrounding monopolistic policies, and opined that the complex nature of the gambling industry was not a justification for monopolistic state conduct.
Former justice and European affairs minister for the German state of Brandenburg, Kurt Schelter was critical of the waiting game played by German politicians and called for a more proactive state approach to bring to an end what he characterised as ‘political autism.'
Opposing argument came mainly from Tjeerd Veenstra as a director of the Dutch gambling monopoly De Lotto, who felt that the current (monopolistic) model was "the best there is," stressing that all profits go to society for the "benefit of the common cause."
He appeared confident that voting in the European Parliament would go against the liberalisation of European gambling markets, and that De Lotto had a solid argument in any European Court of Justice proceeding against the Dutch government.
The Dutch government could find itself before the ECJ as a result of its pro-De Lotto exclusionary practices, which have motivated warnings from the European Commission. In particular, reports this week that the Dutch may be planning a UIGEA-like financial ban on Internet gambling transactions are likely to bring it into futher conflict with the Commssion.
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