The Internal Market Commissioner Speaks Out on bwin/Santa Casa Case
Saturday, 13. February 2010

Michel Barnier, the new European Internal Market Commissioner, had some uplifting news for European gaming companies. Barnier spoke before the European Parliamant on Thursday and stated that the European Court of Justice’s (EJC) ruling in last years bwin/Santa Casa case will have little effect on the Commission’s views on infringement procedures against member states.

The Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa claimed this past September that bwin’s sponsorship agreement with the Portuguese professional football league and all associated advertising activities were not legal because of Santa Casa’s established monopoly on online and offline betting and lottery services in Portugal. Santa Casa has the exclusive right to run lotteries and sports betting in Portugal under Portuguese law. All other gaming operators were prohibited from offering online gaming services in Portugal when, in 2003, the exclusive right of Santa Casa was extended to include games offered by electronic means, i.e., the internet.

The ECJ ruled in the bwin/Santa Casa case that the Portuguese monopoly on the internet complies with European community law under certain conditions and that the restrictions imposed by a member state must be appropriate for achieving the objective or objectives invoked by the member state concerned and must not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve the objectives.

Barnier commented on Thursday that the ruling was based upon conditions specific to Portugal and Santa Casa, its national monopoly operator, and that the Commission will continue to handle cases involving the compliance of national legislation with European Union law on a case by case basis.

The representatives of Europe’s leading gaming operators, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), voiced their strong support of Barnier and his plans to engage in discussions with their stakeholders. The EGBA is particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of the drafting of a Commission Green Paper on gambling which would stimulate debate and begin a process of discussion directed towards changing law. The EGBA feels that the move could offer a solid opportunity to quantify the interest and support of the European Parliament and the Member States to create unified legislation governing the gaming sector.

Sigrid Ligne, the EGBA Secretary General, commented that it was important that the Commission take a stand against Member States introducing restrictions that go against the fundamental principles of the EU especially while several Member States are currently reforming their gaming and betting legislations.

Michel Barnier replaced Charlie McCreevy as Internal Market Commissioner this January. McCreevy was a supporter of harmonizing the laws governing the online gaming sector throughout the EU but was criticized by the gaming industry for falling short on following through on infringement procedures against Member States with restrictive gaming legislation.

bwin Poker offers their new players an incredible sign-up bonus.