Thursday, January 31, 2008

European Commission Sues Sweden and Germany over Gambling Ban

The European Commission has today instigated legal action against Sweden and Germany in a final effort to ensure compliance with the European Union’s directive on the free movement of services.

The EU’s Internal Market Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, has given Sweden two months in which to show that prohibitive measures against poker games and tournaments are compatible with EU law. Sweden’s state-owned gambling company, Svenska Spel, offers and promotes online poker to its citizens, however it is illegal for foreign operators to do the same.

If Sweden and Germany fail to satisfy the Commission that their measures do not breach internal market rules, the cases will be sent to the European Court of Justice which is empowered to force the nations to amend their laws or face financial penalties.

In Germany, the Commission is targeting the Interstate Treaty on gambling which came into force at the beginning of this year. Under the new law, private operators are banned from providing games of chance via the internet, or advertising such services. Financial institutions are also barred from processing financial transactions related to ‘illegal’ online gambling.

Germany has also been given two months within which to respond to the Commission.

Stefan Widmark, the lawyer for the Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet, welcomed today’s decision. Aftonbladet wrote to Commissioner Charlie McCreevy earlier this month, calling on him to take action against Sweden with regard to its Lottery law.