The continuing battle rages on as to the "gray area" that Internet gaming, including online poker, operates in. While there is ongoing action in the United States government for a formal Internet gaming ban, it seems these actions have moved forward in Europe, of all places.
Italy has enacted legislation that makes it illegal for any Italian Internet Service Provider (ISP) to allow connection to an offshore gaming site. This would affect over 600 online sites that the Italian Ministry of Economics and Finance have deemed are operating a gaming operation. The law went into effect on February 24th and could be something that other nations in Europe may attempt.
This could be a direct response to actions that have occurred recently in which the EU has separated online gaming from its Services Directive. This directive, which dictates the areas of trade that are covered by all agreements between EU member nations, once covered the area of online gaming but, with its removal, opens up the online gaming industry to attack.
Naturally, all of this has angered many in the gaming community in Europe. The Italian Finance Act of 2006, as the law is known, is supposed to limit access to foreign wagering sites, something that the Remote Gambling Association says violates the free trade agreement between the nations of the European Union. The RGA is now starting action to attempt to counteract the actions of the Italian government.
Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA, said, "All remote gambling operators in the RGA are licensed for gambling purposes within the European Economic Area. They adhere to high standards of regulation and social responsibility. There is no legitimate reason why they should not be allowed to provide their services to Italian residents."
While the EU has a free trade agreement and prohibits governments from enacting laws that infringe on foreign competition, it does allow nations to make laws if they are based on a moral reasoning. The RGA, which was created in August of 2005 and represents the interests of several prominent online gaming operators including William Hill and 888.com (which offers Pacific Poker), is arguing that the Italian Finance Act is preventing Italians from accessing foreign competition and has asked the EU to reverse it. With the removal of online gaming from the EU Services Directive, this may be unlikely, however.
One site that doesn't seem to be affected by this new Act in Italy is Coral Eurobet. After contacting their online assistance regarding this issue, I was assured that, although there were the new laws in place in Italy, they "do not effect (sic) betting with Eurobet." Even though Eurobet is still active in Italy, it is very interesting that this action has taken place at all. Many might have thought that actions such as this would have been taken place in the U. S. first, but not in Europe, where the multitude of online gaming and poker rooms advertise freely and trade on the major stock exchanges of the European financial world. While other nations haven't taken the action that Italy has, could it be that we are seeing a change in the way online gaming and poker are being viewed in the worldwide community?
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