EU Court rules for investigation into Dutch lottery licensing

Despite the European Commission closing the original complaint back in 2016, it is now being ordered to conduct a full state aid investigation by the EU Court of Justice.

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The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has announced that there must be an investigation into Dutch lottery licences.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) made the original complaint back in 2016, but the European Commission closed the case in 2020 without an investigation.

However, EGBA appealed the decision a few months after this, following the Commission's statement that claimed the licensing procedure did not provide incumbent lotteries with any form of illegal state aid.

Maarten Haijer, EGBA Secretary General, said: “We welcome the CJEU’s ruling to annul the Commission decision, and find in EGBA’s favour, but frankly speaking we are not surprised by it.

“The facts and data of this case raised serious doubts about the compliance of the Dutch licensing procedure with EU law, which should have warranted the Commission to open a formal state aid investigation to address those doubts.

“We are confident the Commission will now carry out a thorough investigation, and we are ready to provide any necessary information and data.”

EGBA argued that since incumbent holders could renew their lottery licences without transparency, this constituted as illegal state aid.

At the moment, the renewal process for incumbent holders isn’t done through open, transparent and non-discriminatory license allocation process, and the operators can do so without consideration of the market rate.

On the latest decision, the CJEU said: “Due to the complete absence of appropriate investigation by the Commission at the preliminary examination stage of whether the contested measure conferred an indirect advantage on those bodies, while the remittance of part of the proceeds generated by the activity of the licence holders to bodies that serve the common interest designated by those licences constituted one of the main features of the legislation at issue, the fact that this issue was not examined in the contested decision does not make it possible to rule out the existence of serious difficulties in that connection.”

The formal state investigation will be conducted by the European Commission, which has also been ordered by the CJEU to pay for the costs accrued by EGBA for the appeal.

Haijer continued: “It is crucial for the Commission to uphold EU law consistently across all sectors, without fear or favor, including the gambling sector.

“The selective enforcement of EU law undermines the Commission’s institutional role as the guardian of the Treaties.”

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