Gaming bosses across Europe have rallied to support bwin.party Co-CEO Norbert Teufelberger following his detention by Belgian authorities last week.
A scathing letter, written to the Financial Times, accuses Belgian authorities of “intimidation” while being in “clear breach of EU law.”
Fourteen CEOs and company Presidents have signed the letter, although PokerStars and Playtech (iPoker) are notable by their omission.
The letter complains that the EU Commission has failed to act in the three years since the Commission itself raised objections to the Belgian gaming laws.
“We hope that the commission will now enforce compliance with the European treaty and do so swiftly,” the letter states. “Countries such as Belgium and Greece … are in clear breach of EU law.”
Teufelberger, who is also Chairman of the online gaming industry association EGBA, was detained whilst attending and speaking at the annual “Responsible Gaming Day” summit held in Brussels.
He “complied voluntarily with this request” for an interview, according to the bwin.party press release, where he was questioned about companies operation in Belgium without an appropriate gaming license. He was released the same day.
The letter appears to be not just a response to the detention of a senior gaming industry figure, but to the EU Action Plan announced last month, which provides little reassurance that it would pursue Member States who apparently flout EU law.
The action plan calls for the establishment of an “expert group” which would collect information and provide best practice advice to national regulators over the next two years.
In the interim the Commission would write to countries where there are current infringement cases pending and take legal action if their answers were unsatisfactory. But no new cases will be considered until after the expert committee’s concludes its investigation.
According to the letter, a direct complaint against Belgium was lodged in 2010, to which no response has been received.
It continues: “We hope that the commission will now enforce compliance with the European treaty and do so swiftly. Countries such as Belgium and Greece that are in clear breach of EU law and that are seeking to enforce those laws domestically are likely to be at the top of the list.
“The time for polite rhetoric is now over. It is time for deeds not words,” the letter concludes.
Full List of Signatories
Michael Carlton, Chief Executive, Victor Chandler International
Denise Coates and John Coates, Joint Chief Executives, bet365
Stéphane Courbit, President, Betclic Everest Group
Canel Frichet, Chief Executive, Winamax
Noel Hayden, Managing Director, Gamesys
Denis Kelly, Chief Executive, Stan James
Brian Mattingly, Chief Executive, 888 Holdings
Andrew McIver, Chief Executive, Sportingbet
Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, Co-Chief Executives, bwin.party digital entertainment
Magnus Silfverberg, Chief Executive, Betsson
Ralph Topping, Chief Executive, William Hill
Ed Ware, Chief Executive, 32Red