Following the questioning and release of co-chief executive Norbert Teufelberger in Brussels, bwin.party maintains that “it is acting and has always acted in compliance with applicable [Belgium] laws,” a company statement said.
The Belgium Gambling Commission (BGC) has two bwin.com domains on its blacklist. The BGC sent a letter to Bwin.party on Oct. 30, requesting that Teufelberger appear and answer questions related to possible non-compliance. The co-CEO failed to receive the letter prior to appearing in Brussels and speaking at the annual Responsible Gaming Event hosted by the European Gaming & Betting Association (EGBA), to which Teufelberger acts as chairman.
Following his speech, Teufelberger was required to continue talking. Only this time, it was for two hours before BGC officials to explain whether or not Bwin.party “was in breach of the country’s gambling legislation.” The matter is far from over, as Bwin.party “intends to continue its on-going dialogue with the BGC.” BGC officials have requested that Teufelberger return to Belgium on Dec. 17 to further discuss Bwin.party’s continued online gaming presence in the country, eGaming Review reported.
“We have been at the forefront of regulatory change in Europe for several years and we have licences in Gibraltar, Alderney, Denmark, France, Germany (Schleswig-Holstein), Italy and Spain,” said a Bwin.party statement issued jointly with co-CEO Jim Ryan. “We continue to strive for a regulatory framework in European Member States that is compliant with EU law.”
In October, the European Commission published an action plan on Internet gambling, pledging to ensure that all European nations comply with EU law as a “prerequisite of a successful EU policy on online gambling.” Belgium requires online operators to have ties to brick and mortar gambling in the country, which the EGBA has questioned as possibly lacking compatibility with established EU regulations.
The incident with Teufelberger, which many found to be an embarrassment, has prompted gambling industry executives to urge the European Commission to quickly investigate the gambling regimes of 20 EU member states and to punish those found to be breaching EU law. The commission has given those 20 countries, including Belgium, 70 days to fully explain their laws pertaining to compliance with EU regulations.
“Belgium’s regulator thinks they have the right to accuse these gaming companies of being illegal, but the ones who are really breaking the law are Belgium when they act in protectionist fashion,” said Wahid Chammas, a fund manager at Janus Capital, which has a stake in nearly 10% percent of Bwin.party stock.