uring that period, Stanleybet’s access to the Italian market was continuously challenged by measures of Parliament, the Administration and the Judiciary contrary to EU law. The claim has been prepared using extensive independent legal and economic advice. It is believed to be the largest claim launched by a private enterprise against a Member State in the history of the EU.
The claim is the latest development in a 12-year history of legal challenges going back to May 1998. In 2001, the government’s attempts to prevent Stanleybet’s operations led to police raids and closures of hundreds of shops. This resulted in a case ultimately referred to the ECJ which, in the landmark Gambelli ruling of 2003, confirmed Stanleybet’s legal right to offer cross-border betting services.
Notwithstanding that ruling, Stanleybet has since then been repeatedly denied access to the market and has been forced to fight more than 2,000 cases through the Italian legal system. On more than one occasion, Stanleybet’s position has been endorsed by the ECJ and the highest domestic courts, including the Supreme Court and the Council of State.
The ECJ's 2007 Placanica ruling confirmed Stanleybet's right to offer cross-border betting services in Italy through its network of intermediaries. In January 2010, the Supreme Court of Italy, seized of other principal cases in which Stanleybet is the substantive party, made fresh referrals to the ECJ to adjudge the compatibility with EU law of the Bersani concession system introduced in 2006.
Now finally, Stanleybet has chosen to claim compensation for the harm suffered. According to settled EU law, the Member States are liable in damages for their actions
and measures in breach of EU law, regardless of the domestic body or authority involved. The ECJ has held that the liability of the Member States does not rule out the personal liability of the public officials involved. Stanleybet will be launching individual damages actions against those officials of the Italian Administration who knowingly participated in the breaches of European law that were at the source of unjust prejudice.
“Today’s action is a move of last resort” said John Whittaker, Stanleybet Chief Executive. “We have always been clear about wanting to reach a negotiated solution with the Italian Government. Instead we are still bound to fight what is now a 12 year battle to enforce our legal rights. Winning in the Courts all along the line has not proved enough and we must definitely put this to an end”, he continued.
“Despite recent legislative developments which purport to offer change, as a land-based rather than an on-line business we continue to be treated in Italy as an outlaw. Our staff and intermediaries face the risk of arrest and harassment, and shops continue to be seized at the hands of prosecutors and officials. Consumers cannot benefit from the choice and quality offered by a truly open sports betting market. We regret that the circumstances have left us with no alternative,” concluded Whittaker.