EGBA accused the Netherlands in 2016 of granting illegal state aid to operators only for issue to be shut down initially in 2020
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has sided with the European Gaming and Betting Association’s (EGBA) complaint into the Netherlands’ lottery licence and ordered the European Commission to investigate.
The EGBA made its initial complaint into the way the Dutch state handed out licenses to incumbent lotteries in the country in March 2016, claiming “the Netherlands authorities had granted state aid to the operators holding those licences”.
The association added that the aid had been given out on an exclusive basis, without the Dutch authorities requesting payment at market rate and without “an open, transparent and non-discriminatory procedure” for the licence renewals.
In 2020, the European Commission closed the case without an investigation, stating that the licensing procedure did not provide incumbent lotteries with illegal state aid.
The EGBA appealed the decision in March 2021, claiming that the commission’s refusal to investigate infringed upon it’s rights under EU law.
In a decision handed down yesterday, 15 November, the CJEU sided with the EGBA, ordering the commission to not only investigate but also pay the EGBA’s costs for the initial appeal in 2016.
Under EU law, if there is the possible existence of state aid, the commission is obligated to investigate.
The CJEU stated in its decision: “As a result, the court finds that, for the purposes of adopting the contested decision, the commission did not examine whether the contested measure conferred an indirect advantage on the bodies to which the licence holders had to remit part of their proceeds.”
Maarten Haijer, EGBA general secretary, said: “We welcome the CJEU’s ruling to annul the commission’s decision, and find in EGBA’s favour, but frankly speaking we are not surprised by it.
“The facts and data of this case raised serious doubts about the compliance of the Dutch licensing procedure with EU law, which should have warranted the commission to open a formal state aid investigation to address those doubts.
“We are confident the commission will now carry out a thorough investigation, and we are ready to provide any necessary information and data.
“It is crucial for the commission to uphold EU law consistently across all sectors, without fear or favour, including the gambling sector.
“The selective enforcement of EU law undermines the commission’s institutional role as the guardian of the Treaties,” Haijer concluded.