Italian government, U.K. gaming sites embroiled in legal dispute

The Italian Ministry of Economics and Finance has angered U.K. Internet gambling groups by introducing a new law threatening to fine any Italian Internet service provider (ISP) that allows access to any of 684 listed offshore gambling sites. U.K. gaming firms claim the legislation is a violation of European law, and are seeking legal action to have it reversed.

Known as the Italian Finance Act 2006, the measure was created in an effort to curtail the availability of foreign wagering sites in Italy.

The Remote Gambling Association (RCA), which is leading the legal initiative to have the new law revoked, claims the Italian government should have consulted the European Commission (EC) before the law was legislated and that it was passed "without due process."

The law came into effect today.

The EC prohibits governments from restricting cross-border services due to external competition, although it does permit restrictions to be implemented on moral grounds.

The RCA, whose members include (owner of Pacific Poker), Betfair (owner of Betfair Poker), and William Hill (owner of William Hill Poker), is arguing that the Italian Finance Act is preventing Italian gamers from accessing foreign competition and has asked the EC to reverse it.

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."

The RCA was established on August 1, 2005, as a result of a merger between the Association of Remote Gambling Operators (ARGO) and the Interactive Gaming, Gambling and Betting Association (IGGBA).

The organization represents the world's largest and most well known remote gambling companies and provides the industry with a unified voice on all issues of importance to regulators, legislators, and key decision makers around the world.

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