As legislation continues to be on the minds of online poker players and casino enthusiasts here in the United States, it looks as though there is also a big battle brewing in the online world of the European market.
A couple of months back, we reported on the news that Italy had banned over 800 online poker and gaming sites from operating in the country. Through blocking of the respective sites by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in Italy, they were virtually able to eliminate traffic from Italians towards those sites. Soon afterwards, the Italian government announced that the gaming operation Eurobet was allowed to operate inside the borders, essentially setting up a government sponsored monopoly on online gaming and poker. The legislation in Italy that set this all up, called the Italian Finance Act, has come under attack by many in the online world and the first cracks seem to have developed here in April, with far reaching ramifications across Europe.
On April 20th, the Civil Tribunal of Rome ruled that Astrabet must be removed from the list of blocked sites on the list promulgated by the Italian government and maintained by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and the intriguingly named Autonomous Administration of State Monopolies (AAMS). With this decision, Astrabet, a company based in Malta, should be allowed access to the Italian market despite the efforts of the Italian Finance Act. It has also led to further action by the European Commission towards nations that, like Italy, have set up state sponsored gaming sites in an attempt to get all of the action.
Many other nations across the Continent have set up similar situations to what Italy has attempted to do. Sweden has a state sponsored gaming site as do several other countries, which has drawn the ire of the online gaming world. Earlier in April, the EU decided to look into whether these state sponsored gaming sites violates the treaty signed by the member nations of the EC.
The European Commission decided to send official requests for information on national legislation restricting the supply of sport betting services to seven member states. Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden all were requested to provide this information to see if they are violating Article 49 of the EC treaty, which guarantees the free movement of services between member nations (similar to NAFTA here in North America). The European Commission logically have contended that nations cannot invoke the need to restrict their citizens access to betting services from other nations if at the same time they encourages them to participate in state lotteries, games of chance or other betting which benefits the particular nation’s own pockets. The member nations contend that it is their right to protect their citizens, albeit one has to wonder about the logic of their “protection” when they also either promote or authorize a particular offering from an online site or start their own service to accept wagers.
There have been other situations in France, Germany and the Netherlands which have also drawn the attention of the European Commission and have, with the continued battle in Italy, led to the current action from the EC. It just goes to show that the United States isn’t the only country that is having quite a time with online gaming and poker and all of these matters are going to be boiling around the globe for some time to come. We’ll keep a close eye on the situation should it change and wherever it may happen.
Ed Note: Many European players play at Everest Poker Tutto bene!