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Europe Online Gambling News

By: Ryan Alders, Saturday March 12th 2011
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Online gambling news from Europe comes in bits and pieces. Sometimes it is good and at other times not so. However, the latest news from both Greece and Italy is encouraging.

Greece is the EU's sixth largest gambling market. The Greek government had earlier introduced a draft bill for regulation of online gambling. The draft presented by the government to its parliament in January 2011 proposed issuing between 15 and 50 five-year licenses this year. There was one clause in the draft that had resulted in vehement objections from the industry. This was the 6% tax on the turnover. Apparently the Greek government has done some rethinking in the matter and has voted for 30% tax on gross profits instead.

A spokesperson for industry lobby group Remote Gambling Association (RGA) said that the association had been in discussion with the Greek Ministry of Finance. RGA had even commissioned KPMG Athens to provide a report outlining the benefits of taxing gross profits rather than turnover. He said that the RGA welcomed this change. He, however, pointed out that the 30% rate that has been suggested by the Greek government is higher than in other jurisdictions. RGA would continue their lobbying efforts to bring this tax rate on gross profits more into line with other countries that have licensed online gambling.

March 10, 2011, will be considered a landmark day for the Italian online gambling industry. On that day the Italian government issued a gazette to bring into force new regulations on online gambling that further opened up the market allowing operators to offer poker cash games and online casino games. The Italian regulator AAMS published its long-awaited Comunitaria decree regulating the award of new licenses and the upgrade of current licenses based on the new regulatory regime. The decree will be published on the Italian government's Official Journal, marking its passage into law. Online casinos are expected to go live in Italy later this year.

Italy was the first major country in mainland Europe to allow licensed private online gaming operators in a regulated environment three years ago. Today the online gaming industry in Italy is one of the most lucrative and successful in Europe. However at that time the Italian government was unable to bring all online gambling product verticals under the regulatory regime because of some litigation, which is now settled. Online gaming operators pay a 20% tax on gross gaming receipts in the Italian market.

In a separate statement, Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of RGA, pointed out the reason for the European online gambling landscape taking a country wise structure rather that a single free market. He said that the EU was allowing the member countries to create regulatory regimes that required offshore operators to obtain licenses from them, even if the operators already possessed licenses from other EU approved jurisdictions. Hawkswood rued that this would be problematic in the long run.

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