Bwin.party defends stance in Belgian licence row

LONDON Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:25am GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Online gaming company bwin.party digital entertainment PLC defended its actions on Wednesday after Belgian authorities questioned its co-CEO for two hours in an escalating dispute over licences.

Co-CEO Norbert Teufelberger has now left Belgium, after the authorities took advantage of his presence at a conference to summon him for questioning on Tuesday.

"The request to attend the interview arose from the Belgium Gambling Commission's view that bwin.party was in breach of the country's gambling legislation," the company said in a statement.

"Bwin.party maintains the position that it is acting and has always acted in compliance with applicable laws," it added, saying it planned further talks with the Belgian gambling authorities.

The case brings into sharp focus the risks faced by companies in the growing online gaming sector that operate in countries where regulations are either unclear or restrictive.

Bwin, the world's largest listed online gaming group, is in dispute with Belgium over licences, and access to three of its websites has been blocked this year. The company says the ban is costing it 700,000 euros ($889,800) per month in revenues.

Bwin.party says rules in Belgium do not comply with European law.

"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," Teufelberger and co-CEO Jim Ryan said.

"We continue to strive for a regulatory framework in European Member States that is compliant with EU law."

($1 = 0.7867 euros)

(Reporting by Keith Weir, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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