Bwin, the world’s biggest listed online gaming company has been forced to takedown all advertising and sponsorship from Portuguese sports competitions after a court ruled its activities illegal.
The ruling, covering tax and regulatory issues, could set a precedent affecting sponsorship deals between other online gambling companies and sports clubs and associations. Portugal does not recognise deals with gambling companies.
Gilbraltar-based Betclic — which pays to have its name on several Portuguese soccer teams’ shirts, including Sporting Braga — and London-listed Betfair are also active in the Portuguese market.
Bwin.party, formed by the merger of UK-based Partygaming and Austria’s Bwin, has a 4 million euro ($5.09 million) sponsorship deal for the Portuguese soccer league cup, which is now in jeopardy.
“As of Monday, the Portuguese professional football league (LPFP) is obliged to remove all advertising that refers to Bwin,” the LPFP said in a statement. It said the ruling was harmful to the national game and that it will appeal.
The court battle started in 2005 when the Portuguese Casino Association teamed up with national lottery operator Santa Casa to file a complaint about Bwin’s activities.
They alleged Bwin has an unfair advantage because it is not taxed or subject to Portuguese gambling legislation. Bwin said the court decision goes against European law.
“The court failed to take into account EU law. One cannot aggressively advertise and expand games on the one hand and keep foreign competition out on the other hand,” said a Bwin spokesman.
A preliminary ruling last year deemed Bwin’s activities illegal as Portugal does not recognise online gambling companies.
And a court in Porto enforced the immediate removal of all Bwin advertising as of Monday.
Artur Mateus, a manager of the Portuguese Casino Association, said: “We are happy with this decision, it was a positive one. We pay for extremely expensive licences so we want the state to combat illegal operators who have unfair advantages.”
“We will suspend all sponsorship and advertising,” Bwin said in a statement. [Source: Isport Connect]
“It is time for the state to legislate and tax online gambling instead of banning it. Regulating it is in the interest of the consumer, the economy and the state budget,” Bwin’s lawyer, Eduardo Serra Jorge, said.