Belgian Competition Authority objects to Ladbrokes, PMU horse racing betting distribution agreement

The Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) has taken action against a deal between Ladbrokes and Pari-Mutuel Urbain (PMU) by issuing a statement of objections regarding their betting product distribution agreement for French horse races in Belgium.

The BCA has expressed concerns that the agreement may have violated competition rules, specifically Article IV.1 of the Code of Economic Law and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The BCA’s statement of objections targets the distribution agreement between Ladbrokes, a subsidiary of gaming giant Entain, and France’s PMU, which allowed Ladbrokes to sell PMU’s betting products on French races to Belgian customers.

The BCA believes that this agreement may have unduly restricted competition between the two companies in the Belgian market. However, the watchdog noted that the agreement is no longer in effect.

Ladbrokes, a well-known sportsbook and gaming brand headquartered in London, operates in Belgium under the trade names “Derby and Tiercé Ladbrokes” in the horse and sports betting sector.

PMU, an “economic interest group” under French law, holds a legal monopoly in France for organizing and collecting bets on horse races in physical locations. PMU also owns the Belgian company Eurotiercé.

While the BCA’s statement of objections does not constitute regulatory enforcement or the initiation of proceedings against Ladbrokes or PMU, it provides an opportunity for the companies involved to present their perspectives on the BCA’s preliminary conclusions.

This development comes shortly after Ladbrokes faced criticism from the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for featuring social media personality and boxer Jake Paul in a tweet that raised concerns about compliance with advertising standards.

Meanwhile, PMU received regulatory scrutiny in its home market of France when its anti-money laundering action plan for 2023 was deemed “insufficient” by regulator l’Autorité Nationale des Jeux (ANJ).

It remains to be seen how Ladbrokes and PMU will respond to the objections raised by the BCA and whether further actions will be taken to address the alleged anti-competitive practices in the Belgian market.