Vice Squad
Sunday, April 15, 2007
EU Vice Update

Yesterday Mike brought up the odd statistics on Russian alcohol; in today's New York Times, Serge Schmemann discusses the European Union's upcoming ruling on the definition of 'vodka'. The ruling will have repercussions for Russia, as a decision that claims that vodka must originate from grain or potatoes would marginalize some of the competitors to Russian vodka exports in Europe. Sounds as if Schmemann thinks that the origin of vodka is irrelevant to imbibers: practiced drinkers in his experience "are unanimous that all vodkas are divided into two, and only two, categories: pure and impure." Kinda like bloggers.

Among the ongoing EU vice stories is what to do about cross-border (often internet-based) gambling. Many EU members have monopoly providers of gambling services, but that practice conflicts with the free trade precepts of the EU. Which approach should win, state-level gambling monopolies (perhaps consistent with the subsidiarity principle of the EU), or free trade? (It's the EU's version of the US v. Antigua problem.) This past week, the British betting firm William Hill applied for a license to overcome the Greek national monopoly by offering its services in Greece. Also, a German court upheld a state-run casino monopoly in Germany, though German gambling restrictions (including a plan to outlaw internet gambling) are running into opposition in Brussels. Speaking of German authorities, a small measure of revenge might be exacted for the soccer team AC Milan eliminating Bayern Munchen from the Champion's League this week: AC Milan's uniforms in the Munich match included an ad for an Austrian gambling firm, resulting in the imposition of a 100,000 euro fine against the Italian team.

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