Some European ISPs ordered by courts to block access to gambling

By EDRi · August 25, 2010

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [Europäische ISPs sollen Zugang zu Glücksspiel-Seiten sperren |]

As a result of a case introduced by Arjel (the new French online gambling
regulating authority) against Gibraltar-based site which had
not responded to the authority’s formal request to stop its services to
French users, on 6 August 2010, the Paris High Court ordered ISPs to block
access to the gambling site, which had no licence from the French

The court also ordered the ISPs to screen certain messages to prevent users
from circumventing the blocking measures which ISPs consider as a wrong
measure. “We are like the postal service, we do not open the mail,” said
Yves Le Mouël, head of the French telecoms federation.

According to the ruling, ISPs should “take all measures to allow blocking
access to the respective services, either by filtering measures (…) by
blocking the domain name, the known IP address, the URL or by the analysis
of message content”.

ISPs argued that taking such blocking measures was not only very difficult
but also inefficient and that the responsibility of blocking sites should
have been born by the host. They complained of the fact that the court
had taken the easy road instead of going after the operator and its
UK-based host. The ISPs also failed to obtain financial support to
compensate for the costs imposed by blocking measures and were given two
months to comply with the court decision or face a penalty of 10 000
euro/day. However, ISPs might be off the hook (just this time) as the
gambling site expressed its decision to withdraw from the French market.

In Israel, ISPs have been asked to block sites for the first time. As
gambling is illegal in Israel, ISPs have recently been ordered to block
access to overseas gambling websites. At the beginning of August 2010,
police representatives visited every Israeli ISPs to deliver the directive
and give them a list of gambling sites and their IP addresses to be blocked.

ISPs argue that the order is useless as blocking measures on specific IP
addresses can easily be circumvented (for example simply by creating new
websites) and that, on the other hand, the police does not have the legal
authority to block sites.

As the police asked for an answer from the ISPs within 48 hours of receiving
the order, some of them required a one-week extension to study the legal and
technological implications. The police however stated they had no intention
to change the decision after receiving responses from the ISPs.

Similar pressure to ISPs is made in Lithuania. A decision by the Vilnius
regional court asks the ISPs to implement technical solutions to block the
unlicensed online betting companies. But the ISPs have asked the court
for more details, considering that the proposed methods for blocking local
access to foreign betting websites are inefficient.

Also, the Bulgarian draft gambling act contains a reference to Internet
blocking in new Article 22 (12):
“take decisions for filtering websites of organisers of games of chance who
have not obtained licenses hereunder, and for restricting the access of
internet users to such websites”.

A Dutch commission on Internet Gambling in a report dated August 2010
also advised the Dutch government to make it possible to block access to
websites without a gambling license, even if these are based in The

Online gambling has a very heterogeneous position under European
legislations. A European Court of Justice (ECJ) recent decision upheld the
Swedish Internet gambling ban, but only if the same rules and penalties
applied to domestic unlicensed operators. The decision might open the doors
for other similar measures in EU countries, even though the ECJ did not rule
on the blocking via ISPs. And none of the countries seem to have a proper
consideration for Internet liberties and to whether a site can really be
blocked effectively via ISPs.

Justice orders ISPs to block an illegal gambling site (only in French,

Police block overseas gambling websites (15.07.2010)

French court orders ISPs to block gambling site (13.08.2010)

Stanjames illegal gambling site removed from the French market (only in
French, 12.08.2010)

European Court of Justice decision – Case C-447/08 – Sweden Internet
gambling ban (8.07.2010)

Lithuania operators resist foreign betting sites ban (6.08.2010)

Dutch report on internet gambling (only in Dutch, 23.08.2010)