Great News from Betfair: Case against the Dutch Minister of Justice has been sent to the European Court of Justice

Great News from Betfair: Case against the Dutch Minister of Justice has been sent to the European Court of Justice

Betfair today announced great news from the Netherlands that the Dutch Council of State has made a decision to refer Betfair’s case against the Hollands Minister of Justice to the European Court of Justice.

In a case that puts the spotlight firmly on the legitimacy of the monopoly in Holland, Betfair will argue that under principles of the EU Treaty, in particular Article 49, it is entitled to accept bets from the Netherlands because Dutch residents are allowed to bet online with the Dutch state operator and Betfair is a licensed operator in the European Union (holding licences in the UK and Malta).

Betfair believes that to be told that it cannot accept bets without a Dutch licence, after being twice denied the opportunity to apply for such licences by the Dutch State, is legally unsustainable. Legal proceedings began in 2004.

The Council of State (the highest administrative court) has asked the European Court to consider three issues:
Whether the Dutch State is, as Betfair Casino believes, obliged under the terms of Article 49 to recognise Betfair’s EU licence and allow the company to offer its services in the same way as the Dutch monopoly is able to do;

Whether the Dutch State can offer a single monopoly licence in the way that it has, bearing in mind the ECJ case law on Article 49 and the principles of equal treatment and transparency

and whether the Dutch State, having offered a single monopoly licence for 5 years, can then refuse applications from other interested parties to apply to hold that licence, when the licence comes up for renewal.

This development increases pressure on the Dutch government, coming so soon after the European Commission’s infringement case against the Netherlands for its legislation on Online Gambling was moved to the reasoned opinion stage in February 2008.

Commenting on the referral to the ECJ, Betfair’s Legal Director Martin Cruddace said: “This case relates to equal treatment of candidates under the law, to the transparency of the application procedure for licences, and ultimately to whether Europe operates a properly regulated free market or a monopoly system which far from protecting consumers, fails them. As a strongly-regulated, tax-paying British company, with fraud, anti-money laundering and social policy protections which are world-leading, we should be allowed to compete properly for business in the EU. We are delighted that the case has been referred to the European Court.”

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