Belgium Online Gambling Operators Win in Court

Published Thursday, July 02, 2009 -

The Belgian court of appeal has sided with the bookmakers in a decision that clears the way for them to a use sports organization's name and event when taking wagers. The sports organizations wanted to charge a fee to the gambling operators each time they would use the sports group's names or event tags.

Juventus, PSV Eindhoven, and FC Porto are a few of the sports clubs that took online betting operators, Bwin, William Hill and Unibet to court in a disagreement over the use of the club names on online gambling websites. The appeals court in Liège decided that online gambling is a separate business activity and thus the sport organizers had no claim to charge a fee for the use of their names. The sports clubs were looking for 2m euros from the operators of gambling companies as compensation as well as a court ordered action curtailing the operators activities. The clubs also tried to get the court to impose fines of up to 50,000 euros for violations of the sports clubs image rights.

The lawyer representing the gambling firms, Paul van der Bulk, a partner at McGuire Woods, stated, "What they wanted was money for using the trademarks. But the court just said that the activities of a sports team is one activity and gambling is another activity. It's part of the principle of freedom of commerce." adding, "It's like a restaurant near the Le Mans circuit or an airline during the World Cup having an obvious benefit but they are not connected enough to the sport enough to need to licence."
This decision may or may not help out with similar court cases on going in France the defence lawyer suggested. Investor relations manager at Bwin, Konrad Sveceny said of the decision, "We're very happy that this is now off the table. There is an appeal but we don't see any reason why this dispute should go any further. We see ourselves as a partner to sports organizations and a contributor to sports."

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