May 7, 2009 / 9:49 AM / 10 years ago

Betfair complains to EU over Dutch gaming curbs

BRUSSELS, May 7 (Reuters) - British online betting company Betfair has complained to the European Commission over the Dutch government’s moves to block the company’s local operations.

Betfair said the government’s letter to local banks in February asking them to block payments for bets was a breach of EU internal market rules that allow companies authorised in one member state to operate in any of the others. People with banks accounts in the Netherlands, where there is a ban on online gaming, are not able to move money to Betfair’s website to pay for bets.

“This is a desperate move by the Dutch government to prevent a company that is fully licensed and regulated in jurisdictions across Europe from being accessed by residents in the Netherlands,” Betfair’s managing director, Mark Davies said in a statement.

Betfair said the government’s action unlawfully protects Dutch gaming firms and breaks EU rules on the free movement of services and capital within the bloc.

The battle between the Commission and member states over gaming restrictions has a long history and won’t be over soon.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has launched legal action against a majority of member states over gaming curbs, including a final warning to the Netherlands.

McCreevy has faced resistance within the Commission to continuing the actions, as gaming is seen as a politically sensitive sector that brings in much needed revenues to cash-strapped governments.

Betfair said it has also challenged the Dutch government in a civil court action in the Hague in a bid to declare as unlawful the government’s call for banks to block payments.

The EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, has said governments can curb gaming but any restrictions must be in the public interest and applied to all operators in the same way.

Reporting by Huw Jones, editing by Jan Strupczewski and Rupert Winchester

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