Absence of EU rules on gambling generates national court cases

The international sports betting business is disappointed of gambling being left out of the services directive. As the legal situation in the sector remains unclear, a new court case is under preparation in Italy.

Stanley International Betting, a company operating in international sports betting business, is set to appeal to the an Italian regional court to obtain annulment of a Decree adopted, on 13 Febrary 2006, by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. The Decree orders the blocking of gambling websites except for those operated under Italian State concessions. Internet service providers who do not respect the decree would risk heavy fines. Stanley International Betting says the Decree “flagrantly ignores the Gambelli ruling of the European Court of Justice”.

The verdict of the Gambelli case (November 2003) makes it harder for member states to restrict gambling. The Court states that any restrictions on the activities of companies operating in betting business constitute obstacles to the freedom of establishment and that a prohibition, enforced by criminal penalties, on participating in betting games constitutes a restriction on the freedom to provide services. 

In its first reading on 16 February, the Parliament excluded gambling and lottery from the scope of the services directive. This outcome was, however, criticised by some MEPs, who think that it will increase the number of court cases and complaints addresses to the Commission, who will need to, in order to clarify the legal situation in this sector, launch infringement procedures against, for example, Sweden, Hungary, Finland, Germany and Italy who have shut off their gambling markets.


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