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Sweden can ban gambling ads by private, for-profit operators from abroad, according to a ruling by the highest court of the European Union.

Validating Sweden’s state-sponsored gambling monopoly, and dealing a blow to the EU’s commercial online operators, the European Court of Justice ruled that the “Swedish legislation which prohibits the promotion [advertising] of gambling organised on the Internet by private operators in other Member States for profit is consistent with Community law”.

In support, the court cited its 2009 ruling in a similar case involving Portugal’s sports betting monopoly.

Significantly, the court stated in the Sweden case that Member States have the right to “exclude private profit-making interests from the gambling sector” and “may restrict the operation of gambling to public or charitable bodies”.

Friedrich Stickler, president of European Lotteries, hailed the ruling:

“The Court has given full backing to the gambling model we stand for, a model from which the whole of society benefits. It has once again rejected the arguments of the many private online gambling operators which pursue purely commercial interests.”

European Lotteries represents government lotteries operating games of chance for public benefit in 40 European countries, including all 27 EU Member States.



THREE NEW CASINOS POSSIBLE IN AUSTRIA

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Austria’s parliament has passed a major overhaul of the country’s gambling laws that will expand the number of land-based casinos to 15 and could end Casinos Austria’s government-sponsored monopoly on the industry as the three new licenses will be opened for bid throughout the European Union.

The licenses are part of a package of revisions targeting the street-level machine gaming market in the provinces. Player protection figures strongly in the new law, and it is believed that new restrictions will put many independent operators out of business, contrary to the massive expansion that was expected.

Under the new law the street market will have stakes and prizes limited to a maximum €10 and a top prize of €10,000. The number of machine arcades will be based on local population, with one arcade licensed for every 200 residents, every 600 residents in Vienna. All machines will be directly networked to the Ministry of Finance.

Also, there must be a minimum distance between arcades and local casinos of 15 kilometers, and in the case of Vienna, two kilometers.



FRANCE'S BARRIÈRE WEIGHS STOCK LISTING

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French casino operator Groupe Lucien Barrière is considering listing on the stock market. The group announced that it had filed a registration document with market regulator Autorite des Marches Financiers. The filing said that if the company chooses to pursue a public offering, the listing would go ahead before the end of the year.

International hotel group Accor owns a 49 percent share of the casino operator, which is controlled by the Barrière-Desseigne family, which founded the group.

Barrière operates 36 casinos in France, three in Switzerland and one in Egypt.

Accor is said to be considering the sale of its stake, possibly through an IPO.



POLICE IN ISRAEL TARGET WEB SITES BASED OVERSEAS

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Israeli police have ordered Internet service providers in the country to block access to overseas gambling Web sites.

The move follows the arrest of 28 people in recent weeks in connection with distributing prepaid cards in the country for play on sites belonging to Victor Chandler and Stan James.

Only two operators are licensed by the Israeli government to offer e-gaming to Israeli players, National Lottery and Winner-Toto. Credit card companies were forced in 2007 to remove their payment option from non-licensed sites in 2007.

According to the Haaretz newspaper, a number of ISPs have asked for a one-week extension to study the legal and technological implications. The ISPs are arguing the block could easily be circumvented by the Web sites and that police do not have the legal authority to impose the filter.



IGT EXTENDS CONTRACT WITH ICELAND LOTTERY

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U.S.-based slot giant International Game Technology has signed an eight-year extension of its contract with the University of Iceland Lottery.

The new agreement calls for the placement of 190 of IGT’s new MLD video slot games, the installation of IGT Casinolink as the lottery’s casino management system and implementation of EZ Pay.

The new contract provides for continuing collaboration between the University of Iceland Lottery and IGT through Oct. 1, 2018.

The MLD machines will be the upright S MLD model fully equipped for server-based gaming, ticket-in/ticket-out, multi-game capability and the ability to switch between video slots to three-, four- or five-reel games.

The IGT Casinolink system will replace the existing Megabucks central system.

IGT’s partnership with the lottery dates back to 1993 when the lottery received its authorization to operate VLTs and use the proceeds for the expansion and renovation of the university’s campus. Currently, the lottery operates 470 IGT gaming terminals located in approximately 40 locations.



EC TAKES EXCEPTION TO RESTRICTIONS PLANNED IN POLAND

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The European Commission has issued a detailed opinion against draft legislation in Poland to regulate online gambling and betting.

According to the European Gaming and Betting Association, a trade group representing commercial online operators, a number of key provisions in the draft are under scrutiny, among them a requirement for licensees to be established in Poland, the possibility to exclude companies and a requirement for online betting companies to install and store their servers in Poland.

The measure also requires all transactions related to betting services to be carried out through a Polish bank or in a branch of a foreign bank established in Poland.

The measure also would ban online poker, another sticking point for foreign operators.

“Some of these provisions seem to stem from a legitimate wish to regulate and enforce the rules for the online gaming market, but they duplicate requirements already fulfilled in other jurisdictions,” said a spokeswoman for the association. “EU-licensed and regulated companies can fulfill all necessary requirements on fraud prevention and consumer protection without being necessarily established in Poland. This draft law would leave Polish consumers without a fair, secure and competitive online gaming market.”

The draft law was posted with the European Commission and EU Member States in April. The commission has issued standstill period until August 16, during which time Poland cannot adopt the measure as law.

Poland now is required to reply to the commission’s objections.



REGULATORS IN UK REFUSE BID TO EXPAND LOTTERY SERVICES

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Britain’s National Lottery Commission has turned down an application by Camelot, the company which runs the National Lottery, to offer commercial services through its network of lottery terminals.

“The Commission is minded to refuse to grant consent to Camelot’s application on the basis of the EU/competition law concerns it raises,” the commission said.

Camelot wants to offer mobile top-up, calling cards for international telephone calls and electronic fund transfers, among other services, through the terminals and said the commission’s decision was flawed and that it was confident its proposals do not breach either European or competition law.

“Camelot remains convinced that its detailed and carefully considered plans, based on thorough and robust legal advice, should allow it to offer commercial services through National Lottery retailers,” the company said.

The commission stated that its decision was only provisional and that it would make a final ruling by September 3.