European Court of Justice ruling may open up European market

Meanwhile, a landmark court ruling by the European Court of Justice has raised expectations that...

Meanwhile, a landmark court ruling by the European Court of Justice has raised expectations that companies such as Unibet.com could break free of the legal restrictions which are in place in many European companies.

On Tuesday, the ECJ found in favour of a claim by UK-licenced bookmaker Stanleybet International that Italian authorities were not complying with an existing EU law on freedom of businesses to provide services.

Last year, Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy began legal proceedings against ten EU countries, including France, Germany and Italy over similar issues. He is expected to shortly decide whether to pursue these as far as the European Court.

The International Herald Tribune referred to the example of Vienna-based Bwin Interactive, quoting a spokesman who said that this ruling would pave the way for a liberalisation of the market. In 2006, French authorities arrested two executives of the company for appearing at a news conference to announce a sponsorship deal with the soccer club Monaco.

"The kind of things that happened in France are now clearly out of the scope of European law," Bwin's Konrad Sveceny told the IHT. "It is clearly another big step toward opening up the European gaming market. In the light of this judgment, state monopolies are no longer tenable."

If the predicted revision came into force, Unibet.com would be able to use its regular jersey in races such as the Tour de France. Some observers within the sport had questioned if the company would stay involved if the current restrictions remained in place and unbranded clothing was required.

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