Germany softens, France mulish on online gambling

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Germany and France seem to be taking opposite stances on the online gambling issue in Europe as a German court this week ruled in favor of an online gambling company in Germany, while the French budget minister reiterated that France wants to continue restricting most online gambling.

In Germany this week, the Administrative Court of Appeal in Hessen overturned a ruling by a lower court that prohibited Bwin, an Austrian online gambling company, from providing online gambling services to German customers.

Bwin, which operates PokerRoom.com, is licensed in Gibraltar and provides several online gambling services.

According to the Thompson Financial, the court ruling focused on the practical impossibility of enforcing a ban on Internet gambling. That impossibility would render the law, to all intents and purposes, "null and void."

The ruling could help bring Germany closer to falling in line with European Union law that opens up free trade between EU member states. The European Court of Justice has been applying pressure to nations such as Germany and France that operate state-run online gambling but prohibit outside online gambling companies from operating there.

Bwin also won a ruling this year in Austria where Vienna's primary online gambling company had wanted an injunction to prevent Bwin from offering its online games of chance in the nation.

France seems to be taking a contradictory stance on the online gambling issue. While it has been negotiating with the EU about online gambling, an official has also indicated that the nation isn't ready to drop key elements of rules limiting online gambling.

"We are not opposed to a certain opening, but we will remain firm on certain points," said France's budget minister Eric Woerth in Le Parisien.

Woerth and Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the European affairs minister, met with officials from the EU competition commission this week in Brussels to discuss France's online gambling laws.

Reuters reported that Woerth said France is ready to "gradually open" its online gambling market, though right now it is only considering horse race betting. He also said French authorities would be looking for guarantees regarding tax revenues and regulation.

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