Italy has had an interesting relationship with online gaming. In February, the country attempted to ban all IP addresses of online gaming sites, and then a few days later reportedly tried to set up an 'exclusive' relationship with an online poker room, allegedly for a slice of the pie.
Now, Italy has taken the step that the U.K., and many other countries have taken, and is moving toward regulation of the industry. As of January 1, 2007, it will be legal for Italian citizens to gamble online. The new law also clears the way for things like public sports betting and bingo parlors.
This piece of legislation de-regulates all 'ability based and fixed betting activities', which poker clearly falls under. The Italian plan apparently mirrors that of the plan in the U.K. with respect to how the entities that do business in Italy are regulated. One thing of note: If a company does business with Italian customers, the government will stand to make a 3% tax on any gaming based revenues acquired by the company.
This seems to be the direction many countries around the world are heading, with the model in the U.K. seeming to be stable, and sustainable.
This new law in Italy has led many to speculation that the online gaming industry will launch an all out blitz trying to grab market share in the newly opened market. How do you say 'Gold Rush' in Italian?
The billion dollar question in the online gaming industry is: What will the U.S. do?
In recent days, it has become more and more clear that the U.S. Senate will not be able to pass the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act in any form, whether as a stand alone bill, or attached to other legislation before the Senate takes its election recess starting tomorrow or Saturday. History has shown us that post-election 'lame duck' sessions of congress are more reticent to discuss any proposed legislation that has heated debate, or especially complex issues attached to it.
Starting January 1st, the Italian people will be able to legally play poker in front of their computer. We will continue to monitor how the other countries around the world deal with this highly charged issue.
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