EU starts official actions against Germany and Sweden

German gambling act, as expected, is officially challanged by the EU Commission that started the official investigation against Germany, as the internal Market commissioner Charlie McCreevy announced :

This new inquiry focuses on a number of provisions of the new legislation which entered into force on 1.1.2008. Some of the key restrictions that are questioned in terms of their compatibility with the EC Treaty’s Internal Market provisions are as follows: the total prohibition of games of chance on the Internet; notably sports betting, on which the Commission sent to Germany in March 2007 a detailed opinion; advertising restrictions on TV, on the Internet or on jerseys or billboards; and the prohibition on financial institutions to process and execute payments relating to unauthorised games of chance. In addition, questions are raised regarding the authorisation regime to be granted to intermediaries as well as the criminal sanctions or administrative fines provided for in cases of organisation, advertising and participation in on-line games of chance.

However, it should be noted that in Germany horse race betting on the Internet is not prohibited and slot machines have been widely expanded. Moreover, advertising of games of chance by mail, in the press and on radio is still permitted.

Sweden joined Germany on the chopping block for similar problems :
The European Commission has decided to send an official request for information on national legislation restricting the supply and promotion of certain gambling services to Sweden. In April 2006 the Commission sent a similar request for information to Sweden concerning sports betting (IP/06/436). In this new case the Commission wishes to verify whether all national measures relating to poker games and tournaments are consistent and therefore compatible with Article 49 of the EC Treaty, which guarantees the free movement of services. The Commission’s decision relates only to the compatibility of the national measures in question with existing EU law. It does not touch upon the existence of monopolies as such, or on national lotteries. Nor does it have any implications for the liberalisation of the market for gambling services generally, or for the entitlement of Member States to seek to protect the general interest, so long as this is done in a manner consistent with EU law i.e. that any measures are necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory. The letter of formal notice is the first step in an infringement procedure under Article 226 of the EC Treaty. Sweden has two months in which to respond. The Commission hopes that the answer it receives will lead to an early and satisfactory resolution of the matter.

This latest inquiry into Swedish national gambling restrictions focuses on various issues relating to poker games and tournaments.

Poker games and tournaments are today offered in Swedish international casinos and, since 2006, the state-owned company also offers such services online on a large scale. However, the national legislation prevents online poker games and tournaments offered by operators licensed and regulated in other Member States. Also, it provides for restrictions and criminal sanctions on the promotion both of online poker offered by a licensed service provider in another Member State, and of poker organised within licensed premises in another Member State.

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