EC threatens Netherlands with lawsuit about gambling

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The Netherlands could face a European lawsuit. Last Thursday The European Commission said that the Netherlands' obstacles to the provision of sports betting must be abolished. If the Dutch government does not respond within two months, the EC is considering bringing a case before the European Court of Justice.

EUThe Commission, the body of the European Union which, among other things monitors compliance with European regulations, believes that the Dutch gambling policy is contrary to the rules on the free movement of services and trade in the EU. This refers only to sports betting, the EC reports. The Commission made its decision after an investigation into complaints from commercial providers of sports betting.

Governments may impose restrictions on gambling, for example, to protect the public interest, however, the restrictions should be called 'necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory'. "A country can not argue that citizens should be deterred from gambling and at the same time encourage them to participate in state lotteries, gambling or betting which benefits the state", the Commission argues.

In April 2006, Europe has compiled a study of the limitations that a number of countries including the Netherlands, impose on providers of sports betting. Providers of sports betting must obtain a permit from the Dutch government, even if they already have a licence in another EU member country.

In the Netherlands, Lotto is the only holder of a sports betting licence. Commercial providers, such as the British bookmakers William Hill and PDC, are not eligible for a licence.

The Lotto said in a reaction, that like the Dutch state, it is not in favour of a free gaming market. The organization, which includes the brands 'Krasloten' and 'Toto', believes that the current system limits social costs resulting from addiction and crime among other antisocial problems. "Furthermore, the proceeds of gambling benefit our society. These positive things are at risk by accepting an uncontrolled free market", says Director Tjeerd Veenstra.

Dutch Ministers of Justice have so far indicated that the best way to counteract problems is to maintain the current policy with a limited number of licensees, since it reduces the risks of gambling, fraud and unfair play.

According to the Dutch College of the Gaming Control Board which since 2006 oversees the industry, the total revenue from the seven licensees to the government is close to one and a half billion. Of this, four hundred million euros goes to the treasury. If the betting tax of nearly one hundred million extra and above the prize money is counted, a total of five hundred million benefits the state. The remaining 370 million will go to charity.

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