Court rules in favor of betting firms against French Open organizers

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Major online gambling companies fended off a legal challenge from French Open organizers who wanted to stop bets on the Grand Slam tournament.

A Liege court ruled Tuesday that betting companies like bwin did not violate the rights of the French tennis federation by offering bets on Roland Garros matches.

The federation had said online betting stained the reputation of the clay-court championship, especially in the wake of Internet gambling scandals.

The French federation sued three companies in Liege -- Betfair, bwin and Ladbrokes -- with a court injunction to stop them from taking bets on the French Open.

In a statement, the European Gaming & Betting Association said the court had concluded "these operators had behaved in a prudent and diligent manner."

"EU-licensed bookmakers are professionals that have a high level of expertise, know-how and risk management skills. This has been clearly recognized by the Belgian judge looking at the fact-based evidence to dismiss all the claims in this case," said EGBA Secretary General Sigrid Ligne.

It was still unclear what action, if any, the French tennis federation would take. It said the betting companies were unfairly using the tournament to make money.

They claimed if a match-fixing scandal hit the French Open, it would undermine the value of the tournament, which had 2007 revenues of $184 million and attracted 450,000 fans to Roland Garros.

Vienna-based bwin said it had to use the name of Roland Garros as an essential selling point to consumers, and the court agreed.

"The judge also considered that the 'simple mention of the name of a sports event is a necessary indication for the online betting activity' which therefore 'cannot be considered as an act of parasitism since its sole purpose is to let the player identify which sport event to place a bet on'," the EGBA statement said.

Along with soccer and horse racing, tennis is among the most popular sports for betting.