Austrian restrictions fall foul of EU law

Maarten Haijer
Maarten Haijer

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has welcomed the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) which highlights the fact that Austria’s gambling laws are in breach of EU law.

The ruling in the Pfleger case largely follows the Opinion issued by AG Sharpston on 14 November 2013, in which a a restrictive regime can only be justified if the ‘declared public interest objectives are actually pursued free of hypocrisy, in a consistent and systematic manner’. However if a monopoly operator shows little signs of wanting to protect against crime and safeguard the vulnerable and is instead focussed on revenues, then there is no justification for the restrictive legal regime.
Notably, this is the first time the CJEU has confirmed the applicability of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in a ruling on gambling.
EGBA Secretary General Maarten Haijer commented: “We welcome the Court’s decision, which confirms that the Austrian gambling legislation is in breach of EU law. The ruling strengthens the requirement that Member States’ gambling laws should be consistent.”

He added: “In this context, we want to remind that the European Commission acted in its proper role as guardian of the treaties by launching formal infringement proceedings against six Member States last November. Whilst we encourage the Commission to take the appropriate next steps in these proceedings and open new proceedings where necessary, we especially urge the Member States to pursue their stated public interest objectives in a consistent and systematic manner free of hypocrisy.”

The Austrian Gambling system has recently been subject to several Court cases both on national and EU levels, in particular the CJEU cases Engelmann, Dickinger and Ömer as well as Hit and Hit Larix, in which the CJEU has detected major inconsistencies in the Austrian gambling legislation and hence declared that major parts of the Austrian system are non-compliant with EU law.

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