French gambling law scrutinized

In France, the Court of Appeal of Versailles has called into question the compatibility of the nation’s gaming legislation with European Union law and placed the burden of proof on authorities to justify that their regulatory framework is consistent, proportionate and justified.

The Court’s ruling followed a request by Didier Dewyn, the former Chief Executive Officer for Mr Bookmaker, a gaming company licensed in Malta, to rescind criminal proceedings brought against him last year for allegedly organizing an ‘illicit lottery’ and “clandestine betting on horse races”.

The Court of Appeal of Versailles requested additional information in order to ascertain whether the criteria used under European Court Of Justice (ECJ) case law are respected by the French gaming system and also considered that referring a question for a preliminary ruling to the ECJ was not necessary as European Union law was clear enough.

“We are delighted with this decision,” said Sigrid Ligne, Secretary General for the European Betting and Gaming Association (EGBA). “It is an important one and comes in the general context of the commitment taken by the French authorities to propose a controlled opening of the French gaming market by March of 2008.”

Ligne stated that the decision of the Court in Versailles relied on the consistent jurisprudence of the ECJ and, in particular, the Placanica ruling in March of 2007. The decision was also in line with the ruling of the Cour De Cassation, France’s Supreme Court, in the Zeturf case of July of 2007 when it quashed a Court Of Appeals decision against condemned private operator Zeturf in proceedings brought by the PMU.

In the past, the ECJ has ruled that a betting business legally established in one European Union state may offer its services elsewhere in the 27-nation trade alliance and that restrictions can only be for reasons of general public interest.