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European Gambling Monopolies Under Pressure

6 May 2004

HELSINKI, Finland – As reported by Reuters: "Feeding coins into the one-armed bandit, 31-year-old Finnish bank clerk Stefan is having rotten luck. He lays part of the blame on the state gambling monopoly.

"'Private firms could give me better odds,' he said, looking at the few coins left in his paper cup. 'I don't think many more people would have gambling problems if the market was opened up.'

"…Many European countries have systems of monopolized gambling that freeze out foreign firms on the grounds of protecting consumers and discouraging gambling.

"…The grip of the gaming monopolies has come under increasing pressure as global firms like Britain's number-one betting shop chain Ladbrokes, owned by Hilton Group Plc, lobby European authorities to open up markets.

"…If the field was opened up, it would be hard for monopolies to compete because private operators can pay out a much greater share of revenue as winnings than the 55 to 60 percent that betters get back from the state monopolies.

"…Private firms say the gambling monopolies are just state-run cash cows that break European Union competition rules. The aggressive marketing from these bodies that goes against the stated goals of discouraging gambling is the proof, critics say…"

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