France, EU may clash on gambling

European Union (EU) internal market chief Charlie McCreevy may take action against France as early as Thursday because of the country's gambling laws, which McCreevy deems "protectionist." According to McCreevy, France's state gambling monopolies breach EU single market rules.

Attention was brought to France's gambling policies after Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger, the co-chief executives of online betting company Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG, were arrested in the country in September for allegedly violating gaming laws.

According to French law, online gaming and advertisements from companies other than the state-run gaming companies Francaise des Jeux and PMU are forbidden.

The Bwin bosses had been about to announce the company's sponsorship deal with the Association Sportive de Monaco football club. Since then the French Professional Football League has decided to ban clubs from online gambling advertising.

Toulouse Football Club, whose primary sponsor is now 888.com, the owner of Pacific Poker, protested the ruling this past weekend by wearing "???.com, censored" on their playing shirts.

Monaco FC team members were forced to remove advertising boards for Bwin before the kickoff of their match Saturday as well. According to a team representative, all advertisements had to be removed as a condition from the French Professional Football League before the match could start.

France has justified its gambling monopoly based on the grounds of maintaining public order. According to the EU, because the gambling agencies are widely advertised, the public order concern could be called into question, and France should either open up access for all European online gambling agencies, or eliminate all gambling in the country.

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