European Commission study challenges sports betting rights

16 May 2014

A European Commission-funded study into sports organisers’ rights in the European Union has concluded that there is no legal basis or rationale for an EU-wide right to consent to bets.

The study, carried out by the Dutch Asser Institute and Institute for Information Law of the University of Amsterdam, was designed to map out the rights of sports organisers in the EU, with a particular focus on sports betting operators.

The study found that the “costs associated with the administering of the right to consent to bets will always be considerable” and that there is “no evidence for a link between the financial return stemming from a right to consent to bets and the financing of grassroots sport”.

In addition, the study also concluded that French sports betting right, whereby sports betting operators must obtain the consent of sports organisers in order to offer bets, is not an effective mechanism for financial distribution to sport or as an integrity instrument against match-fixing.

The study also stated it is not evident that “safeguarding the integrity of sports events constitutes the principal rationale of the French right to consent to bets”.

Elsewhere, the study discovered that the right to consent to bets risks leaving the less popular and less viable sports more exposed to “integrity risks” as for the majority of sports organisers, the financial return would be “insufficient” to cover their own integrity costs.

The study also stated that the conditions required to implement a right to consent to bets are capable of “constituting an unjustified restriction of the free moment of services” in the EU.

It went on to say that the right establishes a monopoly for sports “leading to the creation of a dominant position within the meaning of Article 102 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union” and anti-competitive concerns.

The study additionally highlighted that if the Database Directive were to be amended to meet the demands of sports organisers, this would risk creating “undesirable information monopolies”.

Summarising the findings, the study concluded that while sports bodies and the French authorities continue to promote a betting right, no other EU Member State has properly implemented legislation similar to that in France and most over jurisdictions have instead adopted “alternative mechanisms to collect and allocated revenue derived from gambling to sport”.

The study ultimately concluded that sports organisers already have sufficient legal protection and that the creation of an EU-level, French-style sports betting right is not justified.

“This very comprehensive study illustrates clearly that a sports betting right cannot act as a safeguard to keep corruption out of sport,” European Gaming and Betting Association secretary general Maarten Haijer said.

“Such right has many practical and legal shortfalls, and the regulated betting industry is encouraged to see that no other Member States in the EU have decided to copy the French model.”

Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gaming Association, added: “We welcome the publication of the Asser Study on sports organisers’ rights as we did the opportunity to participate in the consultation process.

“We hope that the European Commission will take note of its findings which echo our view that calls for a European wide sports betting right, or indeed a sports betting right of any kind, are commercially driven and have little if anything to do with integrity.”