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IP/08/330

Brussels, 28 February 2008

Free movement of services: Commission acts to remove obstacles to provision of gambling services in Greece and the Netherlands

The European Commission has taken action to put an end to obstacles to the free movement of gambling services in Greece and the Netherlands. The Commission has formally requested these Member States to amend their respective laws following consideration of their replies to official requests for information in which the Commission sought to verify whether the restrictions in question are compatible with Article 49 of the EC Treaty, which guarantees the free movement of services. These requests were sent to Greece in June 2007 (IP/07/909) and to the Netherlands in April 2006 (IP/06/436). The Commission considers that the restrictions in question are not compatible with existing EU law and that the measures taken by these Member States to restrict the free movement of gambling services have not been shown to be necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory. These formal requests take the form of "reasoned opinions", the second stage of the infringement procedure laid down in Article 226 of the EC Treaty. If there is no satisfactory reply within two months, the Commission may refer the matters to the European Court of Justice.

Background

The Commission's decision to inquire into the compatibility with EU law of the measures in question is based on complaints made by a number of service providers and on information gathered by Commission staff.

The complaints against Greece concern the fact that providers lawfully licensed in another Member State are not allowed to provide sports betting services and other games of chance in Greece. Restrictions also extend to the promotion or advertising of the services and to whether Greek nationals can participate in the games.

The Dutch investigation relates only to provision and promotion of sports betting services.

The European Court of Justice has previously stated that any restrictions which seek to protect general interest objectives, such as the protection of consumers, must be “consistent and systematic” in how they seek to limit gambling activities. A Member State cannot invoke the need to restrict its citizens’ access to gambling services if at the same time it incites and encourages them to participate in state lotteries, games of chance or betting which benefits the state’s finances.

The Commission considers that in both Greece and the Netherlands the recent introduction of new addictive games, intensive and increasing advertising, and the absence of concrete measures against gambling addiction together constitute clear evidence of the absence of a consistent and systematic policy aimed at genuinely reducing gambling opportunities.

The latest information on infringement proceedings concerning all Member States can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/community_law/index_en.htm


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