Italy can't restrict betting markets, court rules

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The European Gaming and Betting Association is praising a decision by the European Court of Justice that ruled Italian authorities can't restrict access to the country's betting markets to protect state-run monopolies.

In reference to case C-260/04, centered on the renewal of horse-race betting licenses in Italy, the courts ruled that the government didn't fulfill its obligations under Articles 43, freedom of establishment, and stated that authorities infringed on the principles of transparency and obligation to ensure a sufficient degree of advertising.

The EGBA said it welcomed the news in a press release this week.

"The Court's decision sends a clear signal to Member States currently offering, or planning to offer, licenses to European gaming and betting operators," said EGBA Secretary-General Sigrid Ligné in the release.

"The Court clearly states that the licensing must be undertaken within a set of clear and strict parameters, which are in line with the EC treaty. The Court's decision also underlines that these licenses cannot be awarded without a transparent, competitive and fair tendering procedure."

According to the courts, Italy failed to prove how its current system, which doesn't include a tendering procedure, prevents unlawful betting. Therefore the country shouldn't be allowed to restrict access to European operators to protect its betting monopoly.

The European Court of Justice ruling marks an important step toward a regulated European gaming and betting market and encourages Italy and other European Union member states to review their legislation, the EGBA said.

The EU has already ruled against Italy in its attempt to prosecute three men who were taking bets on behalf of a U.K. bookmaker. The country, the ruling concluded, can't bring criminal charges against gambling companies licensed in other EU countries.

Other EU member states who also currently exercise gambling monopolies include Germany, France and the Netherlands.

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