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Two more gambling chiefs arrested

Following firm's complaint that French law was anti-European

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The company whose chief executives were arrested in France last week had already filed a formal complaint to the European Commission claiming that France's gambling laws conflicted with the EC Treaty.

Bwin Interactive, the firm behind BetandWin, filed a formal complaint in March to the European Commission, company spokeswoman Karin Klein told OUT-LAW. The complaint claims that France's gambling monopoly breaches Article 49 of the EC Treaty which enshrines the freedom to provide cross border services.

"It asks the commission to force France to comply with EC law on the freedom to provide services," said Klein.

The company's joint chief executives Manfred Bodner and Norbert Teufelberger were arrested last week in France in connection with the company's gambling business. Sports gambling in France is a monopoly for La Francaise de Jeux, which is 72 per cent owned by the French state.

The joint-chief executives were released on Monday on €300,000 bail each after a hearing at a Nanterre court. "They are out and I think the entire case will take 12 months before we have a decision," said Klein.

The executives were visiting France to launch a sponsorship deal with AS Monaco when they were held for questioning.

Bwin hopes the French court's eventual verdict will be influenced by a ruling from Europe on cases already being processed, including that of Massimiliano Placanica. Placanica was an agent for Stanley International in Italy, where betting is tightly controlled by the state.

The court of Larino has referred the case to the European Court of Justice to judge whether or not the Italian legislation in his case is consistent with Article 49. The case was lodged in August 2004, and Bwin expects a decision before the French court gives its ruling.

"The ECJ will decide the Placanica before the Nanterre gives its judgment and we think the Nanterre judges will take the ECJ into account in making their decision," said Klein.

Bwin is the third company in recent weeks to have officials arrested. Two British had individuals involved in US arrests. Ex-BetonSport chief executive David Carruthers remains in the US awaiting trial in a Department of Justice case while Peter Dicks, of Sportingbet, has been allowed to return to the UK before returning to New York on 28 September to face charges being pressed by the state of Louisiana.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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