(CN) – Austria must open up national gambling licenses to the entire European Union, the EU’s highest court ruled.
German national Ernst Engelmann challenged a $2,500 fine Austria imposed on him for running unlicensed casino-type games in Linz and Schärding.
National law allows Austria to monopolize gambling by restricting licenses to a total of 12 with a 15-year validity period, granted only to Austria-based entities.
This geographical requirement restricts competition, the Court of Justice ruled, and is not justified by its stated goal of combating crime.
Less restrictive measures are available to monitor gambling operators, including monitoring the premises of gambling establishments, the court said.
Licenses should be open to entities based in any EU member state, the court ruled.
Austria must use a competitive procedure to grant its gambling licenses, and this procedure must be transparent, the court explained. Any lack of transparency would constitute indirect discrimination, the court concluded.
The decision, which confirmed an adviser’s opinion from February, is one is a series of recent rulings aimed at making gambling laws across EU member states uniform.