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Europe’s highest court has ruled that governments are within their rights to restrict online gambling.

The European Court of Justice on Thursday (3 June) found that the Netherlands was allowed to block access to betting sites from the UK.

Websites from British firms Ladbrokes and Betfair had been made inaccessible to Dutch residents, a move that the companies argued in two different cases flouted EU rules designed to allow firms to provide goods or services anywhere in the bloc.

Children gambling online at internet cafe (Photo: Orin Zebest)They argued that by blocking their sites the country was working to protect the Dutch national lottery firm, De Lotto, which has a monopoly on sports betting, from competition.

Its revenues are employed to fund health care, sporting events and other public endeavours.

In its ruling, which covers the whole of the EU, the court however said that member states could indeed block access if such laws meet “the objectives of consumer protection and the prevention of both fraud and incitement to squander money on gambling, as well as the need to preserve public order.”

“A member state can prohibit the operation of games of chance on the internet,” it said.

The Dutch gambling outfit cheered the ruling, saying public welfare took precedence over the free market.

Source: EUobserver

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