Six European Union countries are facing legal action by the European Commission for maintaining bans on gambling while allowing their citizens to wager in national lotteries.

The EU’s internal market commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, wants to take action against Germany, Finland, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands and Hungary for restricting the advertising and promotion of gambling services. “Let’s get to court,” he said. “If we are ruled against, then so be it, but let’s get on with it. ”
      The EU believes that governments have become addicted to the revenue that national lotteries bring in and have frustrated efforts to create a level playing field for competition in the gambling and lottery business. The European Commission has tried several times to break down what amounts to monopolies on gambling held by national lotteries only to be thwarted by member states.
      The EC recently tried to include gambling in its services directive, but members of the European Parliament threw out the clause on gambling.

     “The official reason for opposing other forms of gambling is out of social concern, but the real reason they want to restrict other gambling outlets is because they don’t want to lose the contributions to state coffers they get from their national lotteries,” said Torbjorn Ihre, head of public affairs at the European Betting Association.

The Swedish lottery generates about €2.7 bin in a annual revenue, according to Swedish – born Ihre. “A fifth of that is profit, and most of it goes into the state budget,” he said.
      In Hungary, the state lottery is expected to generate € 52m this year 20 per cent more than last year, according to the European Lotteries and Toto Association.
      Governments argue that by limiting betting to national lotteries, they can control gambling abuse by minors and by money launderers.
      However, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has ruled that social concern is a legitimate reason for countries to ban gambling, but not when they have a national lottery, so the six countries concerned may well still end up in court.

Russia may delay licensing

As InterGaming went to press, Russia’s Parliament State Duma had approved the third reading of a bill seeking to postpone the implementation of a law introducing licenses for the production and sale of gambling equipment until August 1.
      The law, which would require producers and traders of gambling equipment to obtain licenses, came into effect in July last year.
      However, the government has not managed to adopt by-laws necessary for the implementation of the law so far.
      The law introducing licenses is part of an ongoing nationwide legislative campaign to restrict the gambling industry.
      The State Duma currently considered a bill seeking to raise payments for licenses issued to gambling outfits, to introduce mandatory bank guarantees for those opening casinos and to restrict on the location and interior of gambling outfits.
      Many regional legislatures, including the Moscow – City Duma, have also sought
to restrict the gaming industry.

      To become law, a bill must be approved by the State Duma in three readings, by the Federation Council, the upper House and be signed by the President.


*   At the beginning of March, Olympic Casino, the largest casino operator in the Baltic states, opened its fifth casino in Kiev, Ukraine, at a cost of around € 1m.
      The new casino, located in the Obolon region, is the first Olympic Casino opened in Ukraine this year.
      According to the company’s manager of casino operations, andri Avila, there should be 10 gaming locations by the end of the year.
     “In 18 months we have invested around € 7m in the Ukrainian market and the customers have accepted out concept well,” he said.
      The newly opened Olympic Casino in Kiev is designed in the theme of the wild West. The 140sq,m gaming location offers 36 slot machines and includes a bar.

*   PHILIPPINE National Police chief director general Arturo C. Lomibao has led the destruction of 81 video karera and fruit machines seized by agents of the PNP Anti- illegal  Gambling special Operation Task Force in a series of raids in Metro Manila.
      Thirty-three other video karera units were destroyed in February.

*    THE Fitial administration of Salpan has signed an agreement for a fourth casino investment on Tinian. Governor Fitial also claims that the administration has found a fifth investor that could take the final casino license the gaming commission is allowed to grant under the current gaming control act. Baltimore-based Cordish is taking the fourth license, reportedly looking to build a casino and golf course worth at least US $200m.
      Fitial did not name the fifth investor, only revealing that it operates a famous American Indian Casino in Connecticut.