hat does Stanleybet complaint against Italy consist of?
There are three CJEU rulings that criticize Italy for the way the betting licensing system was put into place by the 1999 and 2006 tenders. We wanted to draw the Commission’s attention on the way Italy called the new tender which again violates the European law, as it did with the previous tenders, by granting again an unlawful advantage to the incumbent operators who were even allowed to continue operating by law even if their licence was expired.
How the Italian gambling regime is in breach of EU Treaty?
The main issue is that the legislation always favored the incumbent operators, in one way or in another. During the 1999 tendering procedures for the allocation of a licence, in order to avoid problems for those operators already present on the market, which were small companies grouped in a strong Union, the law even foresaw the exclusion of the companies listed in the stock market, like Stanleybet and of course all the main operators in the gambling market. This is why no serious UK operator participated to the 1999 tender, although it was directly related to the opening of a major gambling market.
During the 2006 tenders, instead, the excuse to exclude Stanleybet was the fact that its managers and its operators had pending penal proceedings. However those pending proceedings were the consequence of the unlawful legislation of 1999, which was later considered so by the CJEU Gambelli ruling and by the infringement proceedings opened by the European Commission against the Italian Republic. It is a vicious circle. Following the CJEU Gambelli ruling, the Stanleybet outlets were Iawfully operating but they were constantly persecuted by the Italian authorities with penal proceedings, and despite the fact that they all ended in favor of Stanleybet and its operators, they were grounds for exclusions to the 2006 tenders. The CJEU Costa-Cifone ruling completely recognized those discriminations that Stanleybet underwent both during the 1999 and 2006 tenders. The CJEU Placanica ruling grants to an operator like Stanleybet, which was subject to discriminations in violation of the fundamental principles of EU law, the possibility to offer its services outside the licensing framework.
How is Stanleybet positioned within the Italian sports betting?
Stanleybet is today an important operator in the Italian system, whose legitimacy to operate is enshrined in the CJEU rulings with immediate and compulsory application in the national law. Those CJEU rulings are the alternative, for the moment, to the licencing system. Of course a number of meetings with the Italian authorities took place in order to study a way to allow Stanleybet into the licencing system. However the result achieved by the Italian authorities is for the moment just another tender which violates the EU law, granting again to the usual incumbent operators the right to continue operating, despite the fact that their licence already expired, until the moment they will become winners of a new tender, which obviously is designed just for them.
In your opinion, what European countries are an example in gambling legislation?
Obviously Italy would not be a good example. Nor France. I think the most advanced country, in terms of gambling regulation, remains the UK.
What are Stanleybet’s plans for the coming months?
Stanleybet will challenge the new tender which derives from a legislation which violates the EU law and which ratify, de facto, the end of the licencing system. The reason is that following two tenders which created the Italian licencing system in violation of the fundamental principles of EU law, the system could not certainly allow a new tender which again violates the same principles, and which always favors a certain category of operators. However at this point, it is Stanleybet’s opinion that the resulting effect of these new violations is that all the unlawful operators, by challenging this tender and by perfectly applying the well known principles of “abuse of law”, become perfectly legal. This is why it is our opinion that the licencing system is once and for all invalidated.
Obviously it is possible that, as an effect of the action of Stanleybet and other operators, the new tender would be suspended. However this would not save the system because, as Stanleybet warned with a number of notes sent to AAMS, it is enough to call a new unlawful tender to nullify once and for all the system. And the call of the new tender, despite all the Stanelybet’s efforts to avoid it in its anti-European form foreseen by the law, was called.
Stanleybet was initially formed as the international arm of Stanley Leisure plc, a sports betting company created in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1958. In 1963 Stanley Leisure plc became an officially authorized bookmaker under the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 and after having acquired a relevant position in the UK with its casinos and betting shops, it started an extraordinary growing trend in the European market of sports betting.
Thanks to an innovative business model whose compatibility with the EU law has been demonstrated by three CJEU rulings, Gambelli (2003), Placanica (2007) and Costa-Cifone (2012), the Stanleybet group is currently present in Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Poland, Croatia, Romania, Italy and Cyprus with over 2,000 outlets and 3,000 employees. Stanleybet has an established track record as a fair and responsible private sports betting company, fully compliant with regulatory requirements in the UK and other European jurisdictions where it operates.
Stanleybet continues to support its right to offer innovative sports betting services in the EU in a responsible and transparent manner and in line with EU regulation. The company is committed to protecting its customers by applying high standards of internal policy compliance guided by its core principle of transparency in all corporate operations, whilst guaranteeing their right to choose the most innovative and entertaining sports betting products on the market.