A press release issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on 6th March, ruled that a claim by Stanleybet International, a UK licensed bookmaker should be upheld, claiming that Italian authorities were failing to comply with existing EU law on freedom of businesses to provide services.
Lawyers said the ECJ ruling in the so-called ‘Placanica’ case, named after a Stanleybet Italian betting agent, could have a significant bearing in the struggle between gaming companies both onshore and offshore looking to break into new markets in EU member states such as France, Germany and Italy, which were seeking to protect state betting monopolies.
The ECJ said “Italian legislation on sports betting must not contain measures which constitute a restriction on the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services”. The court’s ruling also said that “moral, religious, and cultural factors, as well as the financial consequences for society associated with betting and gaming, could justify restrictions’. But it added: “Those restrictions must nevertheless satisfy the conditions concerning their proportionality.”
The ‘Placanica’ case effectively reinforces the ‘Gambelli’ ruling by the ECJ in 2003, also in favour of Stanleybet, which recognised the right of sports betting businesses legally established in one member state to offer services in another, but which has been ignored by Italy.
This ruling should go some way in giving substantial incentive to Charlie McCreevy, the EU internal market commissioner, who earlier this year suggested he may pursue the US anti-gambling stance with his American counterparts on a visit to the US in March.