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Online Gambling Will Be Tested In French Courts And Senate

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Three of France's largest casino groups have joined together to sue several online casino operators with the objective of blocking any licensing to the defendants for at least two years.

Casino groups Barrière, Joagroupe, Tranchant and the Casinos de France trade union claim that the operators, by offering online casino games in the French language to French residents, contravened current gaming legislation and new egaming laws set to come into effect in June 2010.

They also allege that the online operators have deprived the French state of tax revenues and were not upholding the principles of player protection and fighting against problem gambling, fraud and money laundering. The plaintiffs want, in addition, the blocking of licenses, a token EUR1 in damages and EUR30,000 costs, together with publication of the judgement in the French newspapers.

The operators defending the suit, including Sportingbet, bwin, and Unibet, argue that their activities are outside the jurisdiction of the French courts and in conformity with European law and the law of the territories in which they operate, which include Malta and Gibraltar. They further argue that the plaintiffs are not empowered to bring actions which relate to tax revenue losses, social and criminal issues - more properly the realm of the French state.

The trial comes four months prior to the opening up of the French market to competition for online games, scheduled for June 1. A bill on this liberalization is scheduled to be considered by the Senate for February 23 after acceptance in the lower house on October 13, 2009.

The reading in the Senate is expected to include amendments which will reduce the tax rate on horse racing whilst raising the rate on fixed odds sports betting. A further amendment could also result in the ban on pre-paid cards being lifted.