Italy to Decide which Skill Games Fall under I-Gaming Licensing Regime

18 September 2007

Italian authorities will announce this week where skill games fit into the country's remote gambling licensing regime.

In June 2006, the Italian Council of Ministers enacted a Law Decree (LD) aimed at cutting Italy's deficit by 11.2 billion euros. The LD included measures to liberalize and deregulate of the country's gaming and betting industries and affected interactive P2P remote fixed-odds betting and real-money remote skill gaming, and permitted businesses based in the European Union, European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and elsewhere to operate, provided they comply with the reliability requirements to be set by AAMS (the Independent Administration of the Legal Monopolies).

Pursuant to the law, the AAMS in December 2006 made available 17,000 remote gaming licenses that covered horse racing, sports betting and skill games. But exactly what qualified as a skill game, however--particularly poker--was not made clear at the time.

European gaming consultant Graham Wood said that following a long period of consultation between the AAMS and the operators themselves the AAMS will this week clear up the confusion by specifying which games are covered by the licenses.

News reports leaked in Italy last week said that Economy Minister Signor Padoa-Schioppa will finally sign off on article 38 of law 248/2006 enabling operators to offer a range of versions of poker as well as online versions of other card games popular in Italy. Other skill game offerings will include draughts (a.k.a. checkers) and Sudoku. Casino games such as roulette, however, will not be licensed in Italy, as they contain no element of skill.

Poker comes under very tight restrictions, but the issue may be open for discussion, Wood said. The game may only be played in tournaments in which all players will pay in at an equal amount to participate. Players may not participate in individual online games.

The government is reportedly considering allowing poker tournaments to be open to players from other EU Member States, but otherwise it will stay a purely Italian business, Wood said.

Other traditional Italian card games such as Briscola and Scopa also appear to be on the list, along with blackjack, which is seen by many in the country as a game of chance.

Besides defining which skill games will be acceptable in Italy, the regulations have been completed for the taxation of those games. The treasury will collect 3 percent of each stake and will require no less than 80 percent of all stakes to go into the prize pool.

In other words, Wood said, the government is preventing operators from ripping off customers.

Wood said the Italian government has taken so long to define skill games because it is brand new territory for them. U.K.-based skill games site King.com served as advisors during the process.

Operators such as 888, Ladbrokes, William Hill and Intralot, who were awarded licenses in December 2006, were consulted as well during the process. Wood said that now that skill games have been clarified, companies are developing their products.

The first Italian gaming sites are expected to go live by the end of 2007.

Meanwhile, the government is expected to make release more licenses at the end of the year.




Emily Swoboda is the senior staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in St. Louis, Mo.