EUCJ says Italy cannot block online gambling

italy

Last week the European Union Court of Justice (“EUCJ”) handed down a preliminary ruling in the case of Biasci et al versus Italy.

This was another one of those common disputes between an online gambling operator(s) licensed in one EU Member State being banned/blocked from providing its services to residents of another EU Member State by the government of that Member State (in this case Italy).

Usually in these cases you can flip a coin as to what the decision is going to be…the ban is OK because it is in the public interest, or the ban not OK because it is protectionist in nature and inconsistent with EU law.

On this occasion the coin landed on ‘heads’ and the court ruled in favour of the operator.  Trumpets sounded and champagne corks popped over at the EGBA.

In its ruling, the court said,

“…national legislation which in fact precludes all cross-border activity in the betting in gaming sector, irrespective of the form in which that activity is undertaken […] is contrary to Articles 43 EC and 49 EC” 

and that Member States must refrain,

“from protecting the market positions acquired by the existing operators, by providing, inter alia, that a minimum distance must be observed between the establishments of new licence holders and those of existing operators.”

The ruling comes only days after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution on online gambling in the internal market. Resolution number 30 calls on the EC to enforce compliance of national laws and practices with EU law, and to launch infringement procedures against those Member States that appear to breach EU law.

Here’s another perfect opportunity for the EC to swing into action and show that its parliament is actually relevant to EU wide governance.

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