Civil Court Upholds Holland Casino Monopoly

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THE HAGUE, 15/03/07 - The government has scored an important victory in its fight to keep foreign gambling companies out of the Dutch market. The present monopoly policy is justified, the Council of State ruled yesterday.

The highest administrative court acknowledged yesterday that Holland Casino's monopoly is in principle a restrictive practice in terms of the EU free market regulations. But there are "compelling reasons in the general interest that can justify the restriction," according to the ruling.

In the case, the Council of State refused a licence to French company Compagnie Financiere Regionale (CFR) to start a casino in the Netherlands. Holland Casino therefore remains the sole licence-holder.

The Council of State verdict quashed a ruling by a lower court in Breda. This ruled in 2005 that the government insufficiently demonstrated the existence of justification for state company Holland Casino's gambling monopoly.

The judge in Breda stated that the monopoly could under EU rules only be maintained if crime and gambling addiction were fought. This is done insufficiently, according to that verdict. But the Council of State concludes that the market restriction applied by the government is a "proportional means" against these negative consequences.

For foreign gaming companies who want to open branches in the Netherlands, the result is a big disappointment. They must now make their way to European judges.

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