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EU court backs Portugal's gambling monopoly

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EU court backs Portugal's gambling monopoly

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A decision by the EU’s top court means the Portuguese state betting monopoly operated by the national charity Santa Casa has come out ahead of the would-be competition.

In this case, the rivals were the Portugese soccer league and the major Austrian online gambling group Bwin. Yet the ruling can also affect the whole online betting industry. The European Court of Justice said that a member state could be allowed to ban gambling websites if this is in the public interest — to stop fraud and crime. It ruled this may be regarded as compatible with the cross-border freedom to provide services. Portugal’s Santa Casa had sought to break up a sponsorship deal involving the Portuguese soccer league that allowed Bwin to advertise its website to fans. Online gaming groups trying to open shop across the EU are legally challenging several European countries’ domestic betting monopolies. The EU lobby group representing national lotteries welcomed the ruling, saying it strengthened control. Bwin said commercial operators could also combat fraud or take measures against gambling addiction.