ECJ: A state may ban advertising of foreign casinos
By Sophie Mosca | Thursday 12 July 2012
A member state may prohibit the advertising of casinos located in another member state when the protection for gamblers is not equivalent in the other state, and the national court must ensure that such equivalence exists. Thus ruled the EU Court of Justice (Case C-176/11), on 12 July, in a case pitting Slovenian casino operators against Austrian authorities, who refused to authorise advertising of their establishments.
In Austria, such advertising requires prior authorisation, which obliges the foreign operator to prove that the legal protection for gamblers in the state “at least corresponds to” Austrian legal protection. Austria reserves access to casinos to persons who have reached the age of majority and a casino’s management must observe gamblers’ conduct to ensure that the frequency and intensity of their gambling does not jeopardise the minimum income required for their subsistence. Customers may bring a civil action against a casino’s management for failure to meet these obligations. The Slovenian casino operators HIT and HIT LARIX maintained that these provisions are in breach of freedom to provide services.
The EU judges rejected their arguments, holding that in the absence of harmonisation in this area in the EU, member states are free to set the objectives of their policy on gambling and to define precisely the level of protection of gamblers they wish to ensure.
In the light of the objectives set by Austria, the safety nets disputed by HIT and HIT LARIX are not disproportionate, the court ruled. It is for the Austrian court hearing the case to determine whether the Slovenian legislation provides equivalent guarantees ensuring protection against the risks of gambling.