Adding yet more legal confusion to the monopolistic gambling scenario in France, just when logic and reason appeared to be emerging in relation to its commitments to EU principles, a French court has ruled against online betting companies regarding tennis game bets.
Two Internet sites were banned last Friday by a French court from taking online bets in France on matches at the ongoing Roland-Garros tennis championship in Paris. Ironically, the French Tennis Federation launched a similar action in the Belgian city of Liege, which was dismissed at the end of April (see previous InfoPowa reports).
The two internet gaming groups involved, Unibet and Expekt are both based in Malta. They were ordered to pay a total of Euros 800 000 (US$1.24 million) in damages and interest to the French Tennis Federation, which claims the rights to the popular sporting classic.
Both firms have said that they intend to appeal the ruling, in a statement issued by the European Gaming and Betting Association to which both belong.
In two distinct rulings, the Tribunal de Grande Instance court in Paris ruled that both sites "violated the operating monopoly conferred on the French Tennis Federation (as) the organisers of the tournament." It ordered Expekt to pay Euro 300 000 euros in damages and interest, and Unibet Euro 500 000.
"Promoting their on-line betting business by referring, without being required to, the French Open, otherwise known as Roland Garros” is a "parasitic act” that infringes on the federation's rights, Judge Veronique Renard said in the 14-page decision.
The Roland-Garros event, one of four major tournaments in professional tennis, continues this week with the women's final set for June 7 and the men's for June 8.
French Tennis Federation lawyer Fabienne Fajgenbaum said "…this is the first decision that is so clear on the exclusive rights of exploitation" of the Roland-Garros event.
The case hinged on a French law that prohibits betting on sporting events which are not organised by the French national lottery operator, Francaise des Jeux.
The EGBA said Friday's judgement in Paris merely demonstrated "the contradictions between different European courts."
"We regret that a French judge has prevented French Internet users from placing bets on their favourite tennis tournament, whilst Belgians can continue to enjoy this form of increasingly popular entertainment," said secretary general Sigrid Ligne, noting that Francaise des Jeux is currently under the European Commission spotlight over the legal status of its monopoly. "We do not believe that the decision issued is legally valid.”