BUSINESS

Codere beats Sportingbet; Portugal online gambling in 2012 “reasonable goal”

TAGs: Codere, portugal, Santa Casa, spain

codere-spain-sportingbet-portugal-online-gamblingSpanish operator Codere is merrily clicking its castanets after a Madrid court agreed that shutting down Sportingbet’s Spanish-facing sites was the right thing to do. Codere has been waging war against a host of international online gambling companies, claiming its land-based operations have been negatively impacted from online companies offering services to Spanish punters without state authorization. Codere won an earlier decision that knocked Sportingbet’s miapuesta.com and miapuesta.es sites offline, but Sportingbet appealed, posting a €2m bond while the court considered the case. Madrid’s Mercantile Court No. 10 has since issued a ruling that “any offering of gaming or betting activity that has not been granted a prior administrative authorization is, indisputably, prohibited.”

Companies like Sportingbet have argued that since Spain has only recently agreed to accept applications for online gambling licenses, betting outfits had been operating in something of a legal vacuum. In January, PokerStars beat back a similar attack by Codere in a Barcelona court, which ruled that Stars couldn’t be held liable for not applying for licenses that didn’t exist at the time. Now Codere is claiming that the Madrid court’s “indisputably prohibited” wording leaves no doubt as to how the rest of its cases will fare. Codere claims the total sum these online companies collectively owe the state equals “hundreds of millions of Euros.”

Over the border in Portugal, tourism minister Cecilia Meireles says the government has decided it is “a reasonable goal” to start collecting online gambling revenues in 2012. Meireles told local newspaper Público that legislators had “unanimously approved” plans to regulate the sector, although the nuts and bolts of their plan are still very much a work in progress. Last month, Portugal News Online quoted a source as saying the government hoped to collect €250m in “gambling concessions” in 2012. Meireles declined to get specific on the government’s revenue expectations, saying only that the process “needs some secrecy because it is too sensitive … This is a question to be worked on. This is a global analysis which requires the participation of many actors.”

Chief among those actors will be current lottery and sports betting monopoly provider Santa Casa de Misericordia de Lisboa. The Catholic charity has been Portugal’s sole online betting option since 2003, an arrangement that received the blessing of the European Court of Justice in 2009. Bwin, the losing party in that case, lost another ruling against Santa Casa in January and was ordered to cease advertising with Portuguese footie squads and fork over €27m in damages. Bwin has (for the moment) observed the former stipulation, but has appealed to the Portuguese Court of Second Instance.

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