The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has issued a preliminary ruling that Italy cannot legally block online gaming websites that originate from outside the country.
The market of gambling services has been broadly growing over the last two decades. Most notably, the development of the Internet has made more and more common and attractive such industry. Accordingly, a wide set of games has flourished and a number of operators and consumers is today involved therein.
The UK can be considered the State pioneer in this regard, as it was among the first in Europe, to authorize online gaming market. Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, France and some Eastern European countries such as Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria and Malta are the other nations who have planned and authorized the market.
However, the growing of the gambling industry has been regarded by the States as a threat to some principles under national constitutions, such as consumer protection and the maintaining of public order.
The European Union (EU) is a unique partnership in which countries work closely together for the benefit of all their citizens. The current member states of the EU have agreed to work together on issues of common interest, where collective and co-ordinate initiatives can be more effective than individual state action.
There is not, for the moment, specific legislation on gambling at EU level. However, the free provision of services in the internal market, enshrined in Article 49 of the EC Treaty, applies to gambling. Regrettably, many Member States restrict the free provision of gambling services from elsewhere in the EU while they permit the active promotion of gambling by operations that are frequently state owned or state sponsored. Protection of financial revenues- rather than the protection of consumers-appears to be the real motivation behind most of these restrictions.
Concerning online gambling ,a few days ago the European court has issued a preliminary ruling that Italy cannot legally block some gambling sites (the Italian government blocked a lot of foreign gaming sites from the UK to Malta) from accessing its 61 million person population.
The reason? According to Malta Today, Italy’s practice is a way to protect its “€2 billion gambling monopoly, belonging to the Italian state and a few authorized private partners”, saying that the cause of this behavior was only to protect Italian gamers from “phishing” – the fraudulent acquisition of passwords and credit card details”.
On contrary , as the journal says, the CJEU ruled that EU Member States restricting national gambling markets in order to favour the economic interest of incumbents over operators licensed in other Member States is against EU law. National legislation which precludes all cross-border activity in the betting and gaming sector, irrespective of the form in which that activity is undertaken, is contrary to EU law.
The EC Treaty in fact does not distinguish gambling from other services and it requires that all services must be treated in the same way. Article 50 of the Treaty defines what is meant by a service and the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has indicated that gambling is a service within the meaning of this Article.
The ECJ said that “Articles 43 EC and 49 EC must be interpreted as meaning that, under the current state of EU law, the fact that an operator holds, in the Member State in which it is established, an authorization permitting it to offer betting and gaming does not prevent another Member State, while complying with the requirements of EU law, from making such a provider offering such services to consumers in its territory subject to the holding of an authorization issued by its own authorities, but they also must be interpreted as not precluding national legislation which requires companies wishing to pursue activities linked to gaming and betting to obtain a police authorization in addition to a license issued by the State in order to pursue such activities and which restricts the grant of such authorization inter alia to applicants who already hold such a license.”
As conclusion it must be said that the era of Internet marks a new period and must have as consequence new rules that govern its markets , in a way that is consistent with and not harmful to the principles under national Constitutions.