Holland keeps making headlines: after recently announcing the upcoming implementation of its  (in spite of the European Commission’s warnings,) it is now facing court action for a similar infraction, as Betfair’s case against the Dutch government escalates to European Court of Justice proportions.

Betfair started legal procedures against the Dutch government because of the Catch-22 procedures involved for legally accepting bets from Dutch citizens: no gaming company is allowed to operate in Holland without a license, but Betfair was twice denied the opportunity to even apply for a license. This, according to Betfair, is illegal under European law, especially considering that Betfair is a British company that operates all over Europe using its UK and Malta licenses.

After several years in court this case made it to the Dutch Council of State – the highest administrative court in Holland – which is in turn referring the case now to the European Court of Justice for its consideration of three main points, agreed in consultation with both parties. The ECJ is expected to rule on the following:

  • Whether the Dutch state is obliged to accept Betfair’s UK license under the European Treaty.
  • Whether the Dutch state is allowed to issue a monopoly license as it has done with state operator De Lotto.
  • Whether after said monopoly license expires, the Dutch state is still allowed to reject other applications for a license.

Both sides feel very optimistic about the outcome of this referral – while De lotto feel they have the upper hand thanks to the support of the Council of State, Betfair thinks this will add up to Holland’s already shaky position with the European Commission and help topple the restrictive Dutch gaming policies.

Tjeerd Veenstra, Executive Chairman of Dutch gaming monopoly De Lotto, declared: "This is far from being a victory for Betfair. The ECJ has not yet considered the questions, and since the Council of State largely adopted our suggestions over what they should ask the ECJ, we are extremely happy with the result and confident of the outcome."

On the opposite corner, Betfair’s Legal Director Martin Cruddace holds the fort: "As a strongly-regulated, tax-paying British company, with fraud, anti-money laundering and social policy protections which are world-leading, we should be allowed to compete properly for business in the EU. We are delighted that the case has been referred to the European Court. This case relates (…) ultimately to whether Europe operates a properly regulated free market or a monopoly system which far from protecting consumers, fails them.”

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