Change of tactics for Betfair

Giant UK gambling group switches tactics from confrontation to application

The major British online gambling group Betfair has switched its tactics in seeking entry to the Dutch market, indicating that it intends to apply for Dutch licensing following the European Court of Justice ruling earlier this week .

The ruling favoured the Dutch government’s sovereignty stance but pointed out that online betting licenses must be awarded in a fair and transparent manner, the gambling group noted in a statement as the week ended.

“Betfair will be applying for a licence in the Netherlands at the first opportunity following the decision published by the European Court of Justice this morning,” the statement advised.

“The court's confirmation of Betfair's long-held belief that sports betting licenses in the EU should be allocated in a transparent and equal manner allows Dutch consumers to benefit from competitive bids for the Dutch market.”

The statement goes on to argue that the ECJ ruling did not reflect the realities of online betting, stating that any online offering other than the incumbent monopoly can be restricted irrespective of whether the operator is licensed in another EU Member State.

“Betfair maintains that making a distinction between different EU licensed operators is confusing for consumers and is therefore out of step with present-day e-commerce,” the statement claims.

“The Court's reiteration of points from previous cases that online betting is more dangerous than traditional offline forms is made without foundation.”

Betfair's Director of European Public Affairs, Tim Phillips, said: "Today's judgment once again demonstrates the need for the European Commission to take a lead on this issue, so that we can separate fact from fiction and settle the online gambling debate once and for all.

"Recent rulings from the ECJ have not addressed key consumer concerns and unfortunately today's in the cases of Betfair and Ladbrokes are no different. Whilst the confirmation that licenses must be allocated fairly is a new and welcome development, these rulings do not address the realities of online betting.

"Until we get a clear lead from the Commission, gambling consumers will continue to be told that their preferred leisure activity is the only one in Europe which doesn't benefit from an open market. ECJ rulings are not addressing the simple fact that consumer choice between regulated products is being dictated to in a manner which no other industry has to accept."

"The European Commission's announcement of a Green Paper on online gambling provides an opportunity to address these key issues."

The ECJ ruling was made in response to a request for guidance by the Dutch courts, which must now consider what has been provided by the ECJ and reach a final decision on the litigation between the Dutch authorities and Betfair and Ladbrokes. The final Dutch Supreme Court decision is expected towards the end of 2010.

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