BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission opened legal action against Germany and Sweden on Thursday as part of wider efforts to crack down on hurdles to competition in the gambling sector.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has asked Germany for information so that Brussels can assess whether a new treaty that came into force this month to ban online gambling in the country was in line with the bloc’s rules on the free movement of services.
“Germany has two months in which to respond. The Commission hopes that the answers it receives will lead to an early and satisfactory resolution of the matter,” the Commission said in a statement.
In particular, the Commission is looking at the treaty’s total prohibition of games of chance on the Internet, especially sports betting, at advertising restrictions on television, on the Internet or on jerseys or billboards, and the ban on financial institutions processing bet payments.
Germany’s lottery group, Deutscher Lotto- und Totoblock, said it was confident of the outcome of the inquiry.
“The European Court of Justice expressly allows gambling monopolies because of player protection. We are therefore confident that Germany’s legal situation will withstand inquiry,” said Friedhelm Repnik, head of the Baden-Wuerttemberg state lottery which coordinates the national lottery.
The Commission took legal action against Sweden to verify whether all national measures relating to poker games and tournaments are compatible with EU laws on the free movement of services.
Brussels also gave Stockholm two months to respond.
The actions are part of a three-stage process that ends up in the European Court of Justice, which has powers to fine EU states and force them to change their laws.
Reporting by Huw Jones; Additional reporting by Berlin bureau; Editing by Darren Ennis and Quentin Bryar