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Emily D. Swoboda

The EBA's New Battleground: Spain

18 October 2005

As confirmed last week, the European Betting Association will file a complaint with the European Commission against Spain's lottery operator, Loterias y Apuestas del Estado, charging that the denial of private operators' ability to access the Spanish market violates EU free trade laws. The association has already filed similar cases against eight other European member states, including Spain, France, Holland, Sweden, Finland, Germany and other states that uphold state-run betting monopolies.

Foreign betting operators can not establish themselves in Spain, so Spanish citizens have to go online to bet with operators based in Malta, Gibraltar or the United Kingdom. It is not illegal for a Spanish citizen to bet with a foreign site, but according to Spanish law, a foreign site cannot market its services in Spain

Didier Dewyn, secretary general of the EBA, said the primary objective in filing such a complaint is to ensure that the EC, as guardian of the treaty, takes responsibility for upholding free trade laws.

The prospect of filing infringement proceedings against the member states has been on the EC agenda for a few months, and there is no verification as to whether commissioners discussed how to proceed with the matter at their latest meeting on Oct. 12.

Dewyn said certain EBA members have taken the lead in these efforts.

"Unibet, formerly, has filed the complaint against France in its name," Dewyn said. "Intertops [has filed] against Germany."

Dewyn described the process of filing a complaint against a company such as Loterias y Apuestas del Estado, for infringing the European Treaty--in this case Article 49, which states: "The internal market should be open for free movement of services and establishment of operations."

"First the EC Legal Service screens the complaint on its legal merits, and when assessed positively, it is forwarded to the DG Internal Markets for further investigation," Dewyn said. "Upon positive advisement from Internal Markets, the commissioners in plenary session must vote to take further steps--sending letter of formal notice."

The EC hasn't yet set a positive date for moving forward with the complaint.

The EC may proceed with a case before the European Court of Justice should the member state fail to respond to the letter.

The EBA's New Battleground: Spain is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda