The ECJ labelled as illegal attempts by Italian authorities to prevent gaming companies registered elsewhere in the EU from taking bets inside the country.
“The Italian criminal penalties for the collecting of bets by intermediaries acting on behalf of foreign companies are contrary to EU rules,” said the court.
While the court agreed that there could be good reason for a licencing system for gambling on horse-racing and sporting events, it also argued that such rules must be reasonable and not exclude actors on grounds of nationality.
The case in question concerned three Italian representatives for Stanley International Betting Ltd, a British gaming company.
A number of companies, including Unibet and Ladbrokes , have been lobbying for ten years for permission to organise betting along the same lines as state-owned Svenska Spel . The previous government resisted such a move on the grounds that deregulation would lead to more people developing gambling problems.
“But during the entire election campaign we heard the centre-right parties promising deregulation. Now we are waiting for the government to act,” Douglas Roos, Swedish CEO for Ladbrokes, told news agency TT.
Gaming company Unibet has sued Sweden on the basis that the gaming monopoly constitutes a breach of the right of establishment. The EU Commission is currently looking into the Swedish monopoly and a date at the ECJ is expected this spring.
“We hope that this verdict will speed up deregulation in Sweden. We want a dialogue and a framework, and we are willing to play our part in creating the best possible framework for all involved,” said Unibet’s CEO Petter Nylander.
The court judgment had an immediate effect on the stock market. Unibet and Betsson both reacted positively to the news, with Unibet’s share price jumping 6 percent and Betsson’s up 4 percent.