Action Against Online Betting on the French Open

United Kingdom

This article was produced by Olswang LLP, which joined with CMS on 1 May 2017.

The French Tennis Federation (Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT)) is taking legal action in Belgium against online gambling operators Bwin, Betfair and Ladbrokes in an attempt to prevent them offering bets on this year's French Open Grand Slam at Roland Garros.

The Liège Court of First Instance heard arguments in the case on 11 April 2008, and is expected to rule before the French Open starts on May 25. The Director-General of the FFT, Jean-Francois Vilotte, has stated that Bwin, Betfair and Ladbrokes have been targeted in order to send a message to other remote gambling operators the world over. On 14 April, Bwin issued a statement that the company is suing the FFT for damages in France, following claims by the FFT that online betting presents a 'danger to the ethics of sport'.

The legal action follows efforts taken by the FFT to tackle suspicious betting activity at the Paris Masters Series event at Bercy in 2007, where undercover police were invited into the stadium to monitor suspicious betting activity. The FFT is also reported to be taking action against Unibet and Expekt in France, with a further case planned in Germany.

In addition to this legal action, the Tennis Integrity Unit is due to deliver its report into match-fixing to Tennis' governing bodies at the French Open. The Tennis Integrity Unit was set up by the ATP Tour, Grand Slam Committee, International Tennis Federation and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour following investigations into irregular betting activity on the match between Nikolay Davydenko and Martin Vassallo Arguello on 2 August 2007. Recent news reports suggest that Davydenko is set to be cleared of match-fixing, although the investigations into Vassallo Arguello's actions appear likely to continue.

In addition to its concerns about the integrity of the sport, the FFT also claims that it has the sole legal right to commercial proceeds from the French Open.