Court of Justice of the European Union

The Court of Justice of the EU has ruled against the European Commission after the European Gaming and Betting Association challenged a previous “refusal to open a state aid investigation into the granting of lottery licences in the Netherlands”.

This has seen the EC mandated to investigate potential unlawful financial advantages that could have stemmed from the way in which licences were granted to incumbent lotteries in the Netherlands. 

In welcoming the ruling, Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the EGBA, took to social media to voice reluctance in taking such action, but hopes that this “will serve as a wake up call for the Commission”.

He added that “playing fast and loose with the enforcement of EU law will undermine the Commission’s institutional role as the guardian of the Treaties European Commission”.

This follows a 2020 EC ruling that determined a formal investigation was not necessary, which suggested that “the procedure did not provide incumbent lotteries with illegal state aid”.

Following up on the original complaint that was filed some four years earlier, the EGBA lodged an appeal in March 2021. It was argued that a refusal to investigate the case infringed upon its rights under EU law.

The Brussels-based trade association suggested that a renewal of multiple lottery licences of incumbent holders, without consideration at market rate and without an open, transparent, and non-discriminatory allocation process, constituted illegal state aid. 

Haijer commented: “We welcome the CJEU’s ruling to annul the Commission decision, and find in EGBA’s favour, but frankly speaking we are not surprised by it. 

“The facts and data of this case raised serious doubts about the compliance of the Dutch licensing procedure with EU law, which should have warranted the Commission to open a formal state aid investigation to address those doubts. 

“We are confident the Commission will now carry out a thorough investigation, and we are ready to provide any necessary information and data. It is crucial for the Commission to uphold EU law consistently across all sectors, without fear or favor, including the gambling sector. 

“The selective enforcement of EU law undermines the Commission’s institutional role as the guardian of the Treaties.”