Brussels: The EU threatened France with court action on Wednesday unless it changes a law banning foreign gambling advertising — a ban that stopped a Unibet.com cycling team from taking part in this year’s Tour de France race.
The European Commission also told Sweden to end limits on sports gambling services, and said the two countries effectively block companies based in other EU countries from doing business there. In a warning to Greece, it ordered Athens to supply more information to check whether its rules are within EU norms.
It gave them all two months to make changes to bring their rules in line with EU law before it seeks a court ruling that would force them to change national legislation or risk fines.
The EU‘s executive arm said the French law had threatened or imposed criminal sanctions on chief executives of sport betting companies based in other EU nations and had damaged sponsorship agreements in football and Unibet.com’s participation in the Tour de France.
The commission said it was acting on complaints made by several service providers. It has begun legal action against 10 nations in all, and said Italy and Austria had responded positively so far. In March, it threatened to sue Denmark, Hungary and Finland. It is also investigating Germany and the Netherlands.
It said the countries could not claim they were trying to protect consumers from gambling if, at the same time, they incite and encourage people to use state lotteries and other gambling operators that pay the proceeds to the government.
It challenged the position of existing national operators — such as state gambling monopolies — saying they should not benefit from being categorized as nonprofit operations since they have strict annual revenue targets and often rely on commercial retail outlets to market their gambling services.