Fri Mar 23, 2007 12:54 PM BST20
By Huw Jones
BRUSSELS, March 23 (Reuters) – German regions have been told by the European Commission to rethink plans to ban online gambling or face possible legal action, an official at the EU’s executive arm said on Friday.
It is the latest clash between Brussels and European Union countries over the betting industry, which is restricted to state-owned monopolies in some EU member countries.
EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen wrote to German regional state governments on Friday, giving them a month to change a draft treaty on the issue, the EU official said, confirming an earlier Reuters story.
“We asked Germany to reconsider the total ban on lottery and sports betting on the Internet. We think a proposed total ban is disproportionate and there are less restrictive measures, such as mandatory prior registration and strict guarantees on identification,” the Commission official said.
Britain and Austria, two countries with online gaming industries, have challenged the ban.
Shares in Austrian online betting firm bwin (BWIN.VI: Quote, Profile , Research) erased sharp losses after the news Brussels would challenge the ban. Germany is the biggest market for bwin.