(CN) – Austria can refuse ads for foreign casinos that fail to protect gamblers, the European Court of Justice ruled Thursday.
In order to obtain an advertising permit, the Austrian government requires foreign casinos to prove that the legal protection afforded to gamblers in their establishments is equal to protections afforded to gamblers under Austrian law.
And Austrian law is rigorous: gamblers must be over the age of majority, and casino management must watch gamblers’ conduct in order to determine whether the frequency or intensity of their gaming jeopardizes the minimum income required for their subsistence.
Austrian law also permits gamblers to sue casinos that fail to protect them from their losses. So when Austria denied Slovenian casino companies HIT and HIT LARIX advertising time for failing to prove they protect their gamblers like Austria does, the companies sued Austria.
Austria’s administrative court asked the EU high court whether the casino advertising restrictions violate Europe’s principle of freedom to provide services. The Luxembourg court ruled the law is justified because it protects citizens from danger.
“[T]he Court has repeatedly held that legislation on games of chance is one of the areas in which there are significant moral, religious and cultural differences between the member states. In the absence of harmonization in the field, it is for each member state to determine in those areas, in accordance with its own scale of values, what is required to protect the interests in question,” the court wrote.
“Thus, the mere fact that a member state has opted for a system of protection which differs from that adopted by another member state cannot affect the assessment of the proportionality of the provisions enacted to that end. Those provisions must be assessed solely by reference to the objectives pursued by the competent authorities of the member state concerned and the level of protection which they seek to ensure,” the court continued.
“Since the member states are free to set the objectives of their policy on games of chance and to define in detail the level of protection sought, it must be held that legislation such as that at issue in the main proceedings does not go beyond what is necessary provided that it merely requires, in order for authorization to carry out advertising to be granted, that it be established that, in the other member state, the applicable legislation ensures protection against the risks of gaming that is in essence of a level equivalent to that which it guarantees itself,” the court wrote.The court added that the Austrian restrictions on casino advertising are acceptable provided that they don’t require more stringent protections than are provided under Austrian law, which is a question for the Austrian court to answer.