EU probes Swedish and German gambling laws

Internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy has given Germany two months to respond to an official request for information explaining its new law banning all online gambling in order to see whether the ban falls foul of EU treaty provisions on the free movement of services.

In a statement on Thursday (31 January), the commission noted that in Germany horse race betting on the Internet is not prohibited and advertising of games of chance by mail, in the press and on radio is still permitted.

Sweden has also been given two months to respond to a request for information on its own restrictions on the provision of certain gambling services.

The Commission wants to examine whether all national measures relating to poker games and tournaments are consistent and therefore compatible with Article 49 of the EC Treaty, which guarantees the free movement of services.

Swedish casinos hold poker games and tournaments, as does a state-owned company, but national legislation prevents online poker offered by operators from other member states. In April 2006 the commission sent a similar request for information to Sweden concerning sports betting.

Referring to both cases, the commission said that member states are entitled „to seek to protect the general interest, so long as this is done in a manner consistent with EU law i.e. that any measures are necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory.“