Sunday, March 25, 2007

EU Battles Continue over Online Gambling Uniformity

KAP likes to be global in our view of all things poker, so we return again to the burgeoning poker market of Europe and the acknowledgment that things over there aren't always rosy, either.

A number of European Union member nations are answering various levels of complaints brought about them by the European Court of Justice, the international body with trade-dispute oversight. It always plays out the same: This or that or the next European government tries to protect its own state-run lotteries or betting shops, usually arresting and levying fines against the purported violators, who are quite legitimately licensed under EU accord but licensed in another country. The Italy-vs.-Placanica case (involving the arrests of three UK-licensed Italian bookmakers) was decided in favor of Placanica, but more countries than you could shake a handful of Olympic torches at are currently being called to task by the EU for their protectionist policies.

Without getting into the specifics of each complaint, a partial list of countries deemed to be violating EU treaty accords governing the free exchange of services (which includes online gambling) also includes Finland, Hungary, Denmark, Germany ( anyone?), Sweden, France, Turkey... and that's just off the top of my head. Not all these countries are full EU members, but the point is that the EU is evolving into the bastion of freedom in online-gambling matters that we'd really like our country to be. Russia is not a EU member; if it were, its plan to create four "gambling zones" spread across the country would likely be called into question.

The battle for freedom and trade equality in the matter of online gambling is a slow process. Right now, a lot of these countries seem ready to milk their own illegal policies for all they're worth, even if not all countries seem as openly defiant of the EU as, say, France. The tug of war will go on for years.

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