Posted 3/14/11 : Advertising regulations breached, says court.
Online gambling group Unibet has been handed a Euro 75 000 suspended fine by a Belgian court…before the company was given an opportunity to enter a plea, according to the local media site RTL.
The issue, which is about alleged breach of advertising restrictions, surfaced as recently as last (February 2011) month when the Belgian publication HLN.be reported that a prosecution was pending in a Brussels court, where the public prosecutor intended to request the imposition of a Euro 500 000 fine.
It was claimed that Unibet's Mariabingo.be and Unibet.be sites were at the centre of the dispute, which revolved around football advertising.
The case has come to court with surprising alacrity this week, and Unibet has expressed surprise at the imposition of the suspended fine when it had anticipated a court ruling on the admissability of the case, in which it had not yet entered a plea.
The company's legal team has requested a copy of the court's finding, and will respond appropriately, a spokesman said.
Unibet's football advertising was created by the Belgian company Square Melon.be, which describes the advertisements as: "Unibet brings with it’s web-TV format an amusing and entertaining view on the first league football in Belgium. Bigmouths Herman Brusselmans and Gunther Schepens add with their own flair and humour their match predictions on the upcoming week and challenge you to know better… On the website and on their Facebook page. Within the web-Tv format the item ‘Sloef van de week’ (slipper of the week) has become a reference prize no professional player wants to win! But a must-see entertaining web-TV and a hot conversation item on Facebook! Go to www.betweters.be and show you know better!"
This is not the first time that Unibet has clashed with Belgian authorities; in 2007 the company had to pull its branding at the last moment from a cycling team competing in a major race (see previous InfoPowa report). Unibet accepted the decision and raced in neutral jerseys with large question marks replacing their sponsor name. The team's lawyer said the advertising ban violated European law.
The President of a Belgian commercial court ordered that the Unibet.com cycling team Green Cycle Associates (GCA) be allowed to participate in the 2007 edition of two Pro Tour Belgian races. The cycle racing organiser Amaury Sport Organisation had consistently refused to allow the GCA in its races because it claimed that Unibet would be infringing French gambling rules.