It was believed that 2006 would be the year that reputable international companies, such as the British sports betting exchange Betfair, and the British bookmaker Ladbrokes, would crack the monopoly of licensed Dutch state operators. Recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) case law covering the fundamental freedoms, including several post-Gambelli cases and Placanica, have given rise to the notion that the balance could be shifting toward regulated, liberalized gambling markets. What is more, the European Commission seems devoted to challenging gambling monopolies. The ECJ recently ruled in favor of the Dutch in the Ladbrokes and Betfair cases discussed in this chapter.
European Commissioner Charlie McGreevy sent a letter of formal notice to former Dutch Minister of Justice P. H. Donner on 4 April 2006 expressing the view that various restrictions on sports betting in the Netherlands do not comply with the freedom to provide services as defined in the EC Treaty. On the other hand, the Dutch gambling operators have diligently safeguarded their monopolies. This is no surprise considering that the annual turnover in the European Community’s gambling industry is estimated to be worth €75 billion. Every operator would find this a cause worth fighting for. The Dutch gambling operators, backed by Dutch authorities, do not differ in this respect. Like many other authorities, Dutch authorities are reluctant to liberalize the Dutch gambling market, making it impossible for private companies to penetrate it.