(CN) – France can let a company monopolize off-track horse racing in the country, according to a ruling from the European Union’s top court that reiterates member states’ freedom to set their own gambling policies.
Zeturf, an online-betting company based in the island state of Malta, wanted to offer online betting on French horse races – a field currently dominated by France-based Groupement d’Intérêt Économique Pari Mutuel Urbain.
Aligning itself with past rulings, the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union rejected the challenge and ruled that member states can impose restrictions, such as monopolies, upon gambling to combat fraud and money laundering, as well as addiction and the “squandering of money.”
Such goals permit policies that otherwise contravene the freedom of establishment, a fundamental principle of the European Union, the court wrote.
To justify something as restrictive as monopoly, the court added that the measure must be very effective at fulfilling these goals.
Since the French state controls the horse-betting company directly, and national governments should be free to determine if they are fulfilling such goals under EU law, according to the ruling.
In answering the French court, the EU tribunal added that web-based betting should be regulated as part of the whole betting system, and not singled out for separate treatment. It also pointed out that online betting has a higher potential for fraud and abuse.