French newspaper L'Equipe reported on Wednesday that the French national lottery Française des Jeux has started legal action against the company Unibet.com. In France, betting and gambling is illegal except for the national lottery, horse races managed by PMU and casinos, and Française des Jeux argues that Unibet.com makes business on French territory even if it is based elsewhere. The Belgian national lottery, Lotto, reportedly also considers a lawsuit.
This information would not be important in the world of cycling if the companies weren't major team sponsors - one of a ProTour team, and the other applying for a ProTour license at the UCI, which is inclined to grant it to the Continental Pro squad according to L'Equipe.
"FdJeux.com did not only complain about Unibet.com, but also about other internet betting companies," rectified team manager Koen Terryn. "The International Cycling Union is smart enough not to interfere in the debate, which should be taking place in front of the European Commission and not inside cycling. Of course I hope that this won't have any consequences on the attribution of ProTour status for the coming four years."
L'Equipe also reported that John Lelangue, director of team Phonak, which will cease to exist after this season because of ongoing doping scandals, is in negotiations to become one of Unibet.com's team directors next season. Axel Merckx is also linked to the team, which itself has two riders directly or indirectly facing doping allegations: Carlos Garcia Quesada is reportedly on the list of Spanish doctor Fuentes' clients, and Juan Carlos Dominguez was declared unfit to start at the Eneco Tour of Benelux due to a too high hematocrit level.