The French national lottery warned online gaming executives yesterday that they could be arrested if they set foot in France, after the joint chief executives of BWin, of Austria, were detained by French police.
The arrest of Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger as they prepared for a press conference at Monaco football club, which is sponsored by BWin, sent a fresh shudder through the online gaming industry. The sector has been battered by the recent arrests of two British online gambling executives, Peter Dicks, the Sportingbet chairman, and David Carruthers, the chief executive of BetOnSports, in the US.
A spokeswoman for the state-owned Française des Jeux (FdJ), which runs the national lottery, the football pools and scratch-card games in France, said yesterday: “It is reasonable to assume that any other executive from an online bookmaker who came to France would also be arrested. We are doing exactly the same as the authorities in the US who arrested the British executives.”
At least ten police officers took part in the arrest of the BWin executives, which happened in front of startled sports journalists at the Monaco training ground, which lies in French territory.
The executives were questioned in the changing-rooms before they were taken to a police station in Nice last night. The operation in France follows the revocation of BWin’s betting licence in Germany and comes after the FdJ filed a lawsuit against BWin and other online bookmakers.
Internet betting infringes French legislation, which allows gambling run only by the FdJ, the PMU, a state-run body specialising in racing, and by casinos, according to the spokeswoman for the FdJ.
She said that lawsuits had been filed against all online bookies “seeking custom in France through publicity”.
These include Gamebookers.com and 888.com, which, like BWin, are sponsoring professional football clubs.
Shares in 888 fell 6 per cent to 141¾p in London yesterday, PartyGaming slipped 9 per cent to 175¾p and Sportingbet dropped 10 per cent to 172p.
An investigating magistrate in Nanterre, outside Paris, has opened a formal inquiry into the claims that online bookmakers have organised “illicit gambling” and “the publicity of an illicit activity”, according to a judicial source.