The online poker market is an extremely lucrative market and its growth in Europe over the past few years has been exceptional. One of the hot EU markets is Italy, as there are a number of poker players in Italy who have taken a keen interest in online gambling.
The Italian government recognizes not just the interest but the huge potential of the online poker market which is currently valued at €2 billion which is around $2.4 billion dollars. The Italian government prefers to have only Italian online poker websites operating so that it can maintain a monopoly on the online poker market.
However, this stance did not go down well with the European Union court who confirmed in a preliminary ruling that Italy does not have any legal right to prevent certain gambling sites from accessing its 61 million person population. In the next few years, the number of Italians who are interested in online poker is bound to rise.
There are critics who suggest that Italy is adopting this stance because it wanted to have a strong hold on the €2 billion online poker market based on the results published by Malta Today. A recent report stated that
The CJEU ruled that EU Member States restricting national gambling markets in order to favour the economic interest of incumbents over operators licensed in other Member States is against EU law. National legislation which precludes all cross-border activity in the betting and gaming sector, irrespective of the form in which that activity is undertaken, is contrary to EU law.
Italy has blacklisted a few of these firms although they are fully legal in Malta. Italy wanted to ensure that it kept its competition indoors and went on to legalize online poker cash games in 2011. Currently there are few websites who are permitted to do business in Italy. Some of these website include Bwin, Lottomatica and PokerStars.
The report also went on to say that
Articles 43 EC and 49 EC must be interpreted as meaning that, under the current state of EU law, the fact that an operator holds, in the Member State in which it is established, an authorisation permitting it to offer betting and gaming does not prevent another Member State, while complying with the requirements of EU law, from making such a provider offering such services to consumers in its territory subject to the holding of an authorization issued by its own authorities