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Court: Austrian casino rules are illegal

LUXEMBOURG, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- The European Court of Justice has ruled Austria cannot limit casino ownership within its borders to companies headquartered there.

The court said Thursday the Austrian regulations violate European Union laws, the EUobserver reported. The Austrian government has the right to limit the number of gambling establishments but not to restrict ownership, the judges found.

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Banning non-Austrian companies is discriminatory and "is disproportionate, as it goes beyond what is necessary to combat crime," the ruling said.

A German citizen, Ernst Engelmann, challenged the Austrian law after he was fined for starting two casinos.

Austria has tried to ensure all casino licenses are held by one company, Casinos Austria. The court said that also violates EU law.

The court said the limitation on the number of casinos is in the public interest because it would tend to reduce gambling addiction.

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