Last Friday the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) openly welcomed a decision by the Court of Appeal of Versailles to examine whether or not France's stance on gaming law is compatible with that of the European Union. The EGBA released in a statement that the Court of Appeal of Versailles is questioning if France's gaming legislation can be reconciled with EU gaming law, now placing the burden of proof on French authorities to justify their regulatory framework.

The court’s decision follows a request by Didier Dewin, the ex-CEO of Mr. Bookmaker (licensed in Malta), to annul the criminal proceedings brought against him on 16 April 2007 for allegedly organizing an “illicit Lottery” and “clandestine betting on horse races.”

The Court of Appeal of Versailles has requested additional information in order to deduce whether the criteria used by the European Court of Justice, in its case law, are adhered to by the French gaming system. The Court has deemed that referring a question for a preliminary ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) was not necessary as the EU law is clear enough.

For obvious reasons, the EGBA has welcomed this most recent decision. The Court relies on the consistent jurisprudence of the ECJ and in particular the Placanica ruling of 6 March 2007. This most recent decision is also in line with the Cour de Cassation (France’s Supreme Court) ruling in the Zeturf case of 10 July 2007. It was during this case that the Cour de Cassation overturned a decision made by the Court of Appeal which condemned private operator Zeturf in the proceedings brought by the PMU.

Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of the EGBA, was quoted as saying: “We are delighted with this decision. 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 2008.”

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