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Dutch treat for online gambling; French ISPs battle ARJEL; OPAP rejects claims

TAGs: arjel, FiveDimes, France, greece, Netherlands, OPAP

On Saturday, the Netherlands confirmed rumors that it intends to lift its longstanding ban on online gambling and auction off an undetermined number of licenses to operators. No timeline was given for when this license bidding will commence, but State Secretary of Security and Justice Fredrik Teeven said the Dutch government expects to reap at least €10m per year starting in 2012. The move marks a sharp reversal in policy for the country, which previously fought off court challenges from operators such as Ladbrokes and Betfair. Clearly, the new coalition government that took power last October is taking a more liberal tack than its predecessors. In announcing the shift in policy, Teeven noted that the existing law had not prevented hundreds of thousands of Dutch citizens from finding ways to gamble online, and thus a new system was needed to allow for greater oversight.

dutch-arjel-opapA little further south, a group of French internet service providers – Orange France, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, Free, Numericable, Auchan Telecom and Darty – are battling authorities in court at Paris’ Tribunal de Grande Instance. The ISPs are protesting the law requiring them to block unlicensed online gambling operators — in this specific case, Costa Rica-based FiveDimes. French gaming regulator ARJEL charges that FiveDimes provides a French-language sign-up page, as well as the option to bet on French horse races, without having the decency to obtain a valid French gaming license. But because ARJEL can’t get to ICE, the Costa Rican company that hosts FiveDimes’ servers, ARJEL is going after the local ISPs, fining them €10k/day until they find a way to fix that lid on Pandora’s box. In response, the ISPs have protested that the law is unworkable. The ISPs reminded the court that, despite their ongoing efforts to block anti-Semitic website Aaargh, the site was still accessible at over a dozen different web addresses. The ISPs fear that ARJEL doesn’t understand that the internet is not the Bastille – you can’t simply lock the door, throw away the key and think those prisoners will never find a way out.

Even further south (and a little east), Greek gaming monopoly OPAP has hit back at Cypriot politicians’ claims that the new online gaming draft law was designed to give OPAP an unfair advantage over its competitors. In a series of full-page newspaper ads, OPAP touted the €117m in prize money it paid out to Cypriots in 2010. (Fair enough, but that really wasn’t the issue the politicians were raising.) Now the Cyprus Mail newspaper has published an editorial questioning the “lack of consistency” in the government’s willingness to permit online betting on sports and horse racing, while simultaneously attempting to ban online casino gambling. In the Mail’s view, a more sensible approach is required, as “banning online gambling will not make it disappear.” Perhaps those French ISPs should send a copy of the Mail‘s editorial to ARJEL…

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