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bwin.party initiates legal action over Belgium blacklist

bwin.party has initiated legal proceedings in Belgium aimed at getting its domains removed from the Belgian Gaming Commission’s blacklist of illegal sites.

The bwin and PartyPoker owner issued the lawsuit on Friday against the Minister of Justice and the Gaming Commission citing the “enormous” financial, commercial and reputational damage of its websites being added to the list of blocked domains on 9 May. Dot.com domains belonging to Betfair, William Hill, Betsson, BetClic Everest, 888, Titan Poker and Winamax are also on the Commission’s 30-strong blacklist.

bwin.party is demanding that websites run by its Gibraltar-based subsidiary Electra Works Ltd and French-licensed subsidiary BES SAS (under which bwin.party’s dot.fr French language sites are operated) are removed from the blacklist and Belgian players’ access to the websites restored.

bwin.party is also higlighting that the relevant “kb”, or ‘Koninlijk Besluit’, or act that has been approved by the Parliament and the king/queen, has still not been published on the government’s Official Gazette informing the public about new laws.

The Court of First Instance in Brussels will hold a hearing this Friday 25 May to decide whether the claim will be dismissed or allowed to proceed, according to L’Echo.

A bwin.party spokesman issued a flat “no comment” response when contacted by Casino Choice this afternoon.

According to the amended legislation which came into force on 1 January last year, the four largest internet service providers are compelled to block sites on the Belgian Gaming Commission’s blacklist. Online operators without a Belgian licence now face potential fines of up to €100,000 for “facilitating”, “advertising” or “recruiting” for illegal games of chance in Belgium. Players in the country also face fines of up to €25,000 for playing on sites that haven’t been licensed by the Commission.

Under the Belgian Royal Decree that came into effect last year, online permits are restricted to licensed land-based gaming entities in Belgium, with nine A+ licences on offer to casinos, 34 F1+ permits to sports betting operators and around 180 B+ licences  to arcade operators. PokerStars is the only operator without an offline licence in Belgium that has been granted an online licence in the territory, by dint of its partnership with Belgian casino owner Circus Groupe, which began back in 2010.

The Belgian Constitutional Court refused in July last year to raise a preliminary question with the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) over the requirements for online applicants to hold a land-based licence and to locate servers within the country. This followed a claim by Betfair, Telebet and the Remote Gambling Association that these provisions breached equality and non-discriminatory principles of the Belgian constitution and Articles 49 and 56 of the EU Treaty on freedom of establishment and provision of services.

The national court argued that restrictions on operators’ rights enshrined within Articles 49 and 56 of the Treaty to offer online gambling into Member States from jurisdictions within the EEA were legitimate and proportionate, and supported by previous CJEU decisions in favour of monopolies. The CJEU ruled in favour of Portuguese gambling monopoly Santa Casa de Misericordia against bwin, Carmen Media and the Portuguese football league in 2009,  and for Dutch monopoly DeLotto against Ladbrokes and Betfair in 2010.


Casino Choice journalist

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