Gaming firms say EU dragging feet over legal action

EU

The European Commission is under political pressure not to crack down on national barriers to gaming competition as legal actions against EU states drag on, industry groups said on Thursday.

The European Union’s executive has actions against 10 of the bloc’s 27 countries in a sector dominated by state-controlled companies generating revenue for national coffers. The gaming industry hoped EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy would have taken Denmark and Sweden to the final stage -- the European Court of Justice -- on Thursday, but nothing has been announced. “I am seriously concerned that what would appear to be political maneuverings are trying to slow down the Commission’s pace and kick the issue into the long grass,” said John Whittaker, managing director of Stanleybet International.

Denmark, Finland and Hungary received final warnings in March last year to change their laws, with France and Sweden three months later, Stanleybet said. An EU state is normally given two months to reply to a final warning or face the EU’s top court, which has powers to require that a country change its laws. The Remote Gambling Association and the European Gaming and Betting Association said the actions were taking too long. “Gambling has become a real test of the Commission’s ability to resist national protectionist pressures,” RGA CEO Clive Hawkswood said.

McCreevy’s spokesman acknowledged the gaming cases had taken a long time but nevertheless it was a priority for McCreevy to bring them to court or drop them. “They were never on the agenda so they were never taken off,” the spokesman said. The Commission’s next round of decisions on legal proceedings is in September. (Reuters)

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