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European Commission investigating French gambling monopoly

Wed, 11 Oct 2006 , InfoPowa Send page to friend Bookmark page Smaller font Larger font Printer friendly

France could be in the sights of European Commission investigator Charlie McCreevy this week as a result of its protectionist laws on gambling, which have excluded online betting companies from other EU member states from offering their products and services in the country.

According to several media reports, McCreevy suspects that France's state gambling monopolies breach EU single market rules.

Attention was focused on France's gambling policies following the recent arrests of Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger, the co-chief executives of online betting company Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG. Their detention by French authorities in September for allegedly violating gaming laws received major mainstream media coverage.

In French law, online gaming and advertisements from companies other than the state-run gaming companies Francaise des Jeux and PMU are forbidden.

The Bwin bosses had been about to announce the company's sponsorship deal with the Association Sportive de Monaco football club.

Since then the French Professional Football League has banned its clubs from accepting online gambling advertising, an unpopular move which resulted this week in a high profile protest when Toulouse Football Club, sponsored by 888.com appeared on the field wearing player shirts emblazoned with "???.com - censored."

According to a team representative, the ban also affected Monaco FC this weekend when team members were forced to remove advertising boards for Bwin before the kick-off of their match. A club representative told reporters that all advertisements had to be removed on a ruling by the French Professional Football League before the match could start.

France has justified its gambling monopoly based on the grounds of maintaining public order. According to the EU, because the state gambling agencies are widely advertised, the public order concern could be called into question, and France should either open up access for all European online gambling agencies, or eliminate all gambling in the country.

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