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Interview with Quirino Mancini, Partner, SCM Partners

January 22, 2009 2009

Call for operators to go for ‘realistic and swift action’ in Italy

Bulletbusiness.com’s Legal Gaming Special

Considering the situation in the US right now, it is being pointed out there is more gambling online than there used to be before a ban was introduced.

As a result, governments in such instances completely lose control of their tax revenues, while consumers bet into markets where there are no regulations. Meanwhile, the regulated operators or companies, which want to pay tax and work with government, do no business.

As an expert in this arena, Quirino Mancini, Partner, SCM Partners, feels this analysis is indeed quite accurate for most international jurisdictions.

“But (it) does not appear to fit well with the Italian market, in which authorities have consistently implemented over the last three years a legal & regulatory policy aimed at discouraging (via the infamous blacklist restrictions) local residents from gambling on foreign-based unlicensed sites while simultaneously enticing foreign operators to seek a local licence by opening up the domestic market through the awarding of a large batch of new licences and a controlled yet progressive gaming liberalisation,” said Mancini, who is scheduled to speak during Bulletbusiness’ 3rd Legal Gaming in Europe Summit 2009, to be held in London on 26-27 January.

On recent developments in Italy, Mancini said the new online gaming regulations have not yet been published although they have been in the Italian regulator’s pipeline for several months now.

“(As per the grapevine) they (new regulations) should be actually out by later this month and if that should happen undoubtedly this will be the first and foremost striking news of the New Year.”

“Meanwhile the recent (September 2008) launch of the first real-money online poker tournaments received a prompt and enthusiastic response from the domestic market so it can be easily predicted that the Italian poker-mania will receive a further boost when a very top operator like PokerStars goes live in Italy later this year.  More generally, the 2008 turnover figures and the 2009 forecasts seem to confirm, at least in Italy, the very anti-cyclic nature of the gaming business economics-wise.  So the deeper the recession, all the better for those anyhow engaged in the provision of offline/online gaming services in the Peninsula,” shared Mancini.

From operators’ perspective, who have been asking for a level playing field but in vain, Mancini said for those gaming operators who may want to exploit “the still quite good business opportunities” offered by the Italian market (and/or any other key European market not yet saturated) “this is not the time for hope but rather for realistic and swift action”.

“This means that they should not expect the Brussels authorities to come up any time soon with a hat trick solution harmonising both licensing rules and tax rates EU-wide, but instead identify those markets across Europe where they should enhance or strengthen their operations and then act in accordance with to the local licencing regimes,” said Mancini.

Overall, Mancini still feels that there are too many regulatory hurdles and tax gaps do exist across Europe so as to be effectively addressed and rapidly bridged at EC commission level.

“In this regard I note that despite various rulings that the ECJ consistently handed down in recent years under the theory of articles 43 and 49 of the Rome Treaty, the local gaming monopolies – not just the Italian one I might add – continue to enjoy prosperity and good shape and still rule their respective markets.  This hard fact suggests that “the Italian job” – a blend of driven and progressive market liberalisation yet always coupled with the requirement of a local licence – stands good chances of becoming a fairly flexible, and certainly improvable, regulatory model that other regulators could replicate elsewhere in Europe in the years to come,” added Mancini.

Recently, a draft EU document indicated that there are “grounds for a common approach to regulating the European Union’s multi-billion-euro gambling sector”.

It found there were “already grounds for seeking a common approach” and cooperation among national gaming regulators appears to be a necessary first step to combating money laundering, fraud and corruption.

But for his part, Mancini said, “At the risk of sounding redundant, I find the above statement to be little more than wishful thinking at this time yet would be very glad to be proven wrong by the Brussels authorities.”

Role of Bullet Business and Gaminglaw.eu partnership going forward

Assessing the partnership between Bullet Business and portal Gaminglaw.eu from gaming law specialists, Mancini said, “Me and the other founders and partners of Gaminglaw.eu strongly find that the main and most important job mission of our pan-European groupment is to provide the gaming industry not just with accurate and up-to-date legal advice but also to share key information, disseminate comments and suggestions, stimulate debates, quickly spread news and if at all possible, effectively reach out to the regulatory movers and shakers in the interest of the stakeholders.”

“Such an ambitious and far-reaching goal can only be achieved by teaming up with a few suitable media partners at international level and definitely Bullet Business has all right credentials in this regard,” said Mancini.

3rd Legal Gaming in Europe Summit 2009

Bulletbusiness’ 3rd Legal Gaming in Europe Summit 2009 is scheduled to take place in London on 26-27 January.

For more information visit: http://www.bulletbusiness.com/legaleurope09/agenda.shtml



Ben Satchwell at +442073757163 or email ben@bulletbusiness.com

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