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Monday, November 30, 2009
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As anticipated in a previous post, the draft decrees governing Videolotteries and online cash games were under the review of the European Commission for a 3 months “stand still” period. Such period is now over and only the Maltese government filed some comments on the decree regulating online cash games that however are not binding.
The Italian gaming authority is now expected to issue the final decrees and - according to the information currently available – the launch of online cash games is expected to occur in March 2010. This means that in couple of months .IT online gaming websites will be able to offer the same types of games currently available on .COM websites which will make them even more attractive for players and consequently the Italian gaming market will become an even better target for operators.
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Friday, November 27, 2009
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We are used in the online world to accepting standard Ts&Cs of sale through a mere point & click. However, such practice can give rise to issues in case of agreements under an Italian law perspective.
Italian law prescribes that all the one-sided clauses of both B2B and B2C standard agreements (e.g. limitation of liability, termination without cause, contract modification, forum selection etc.) need to be executed in writing through the so called "double signature" by the party that has not drafted the agreement (i.e. the customer), otherwise such clauses are null and void. 
Since in case of online transactions a written execution of standard Ts&Cs never occurs, ISPs face the risk of non-being able to enforce the abovementioned clauses against their customers in a potential dispute. Also, the same issue comes up in the offline world in case - for instance -of shrinkwrap software licenses, contracts entered into through exchanges of emails, scanned agreements, faxes etc. and in case of any type of transaction involving standard agreements.    
It is possible to adopt conducts aimed at minimising this risk, but there are no general solutions for the matter. 
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009
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Italy has always been one of the countries with the highest rate of tax evasion. In this context, one of the main problems is that a number of shops, professionals and even companies do not issue receipts on all the purchases performed by their customers and clients. Therefore their “official” turnover is substantially lower than the funds actually collected. 
Since the increase of the applicable fines has not showed to be fully effective notwithstanding the increase in tax investigations, the Italian government is currently reviewing the possibility to introduce the so called “scratch and win receipts”. As a consequence of such measure, customers will be encouraged to require the issue of receipts on any purchase since they might win prizes scratching them and therefore the tax evasion is expected to considerably lower
The terms of the law proposal and the available prizes are still unclear, but this measure seems a very bright solution to one of the most relevant issues in Italy. 
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Friday, November 20, 2009
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The Italian Communications Authority launched on 19 November 2009 an informative review concerning the "Guarantees for consumers and the protection of the competition with reference to VoIP voice services from mobile network and to peer to peer traffic" which will last 120 days. This review is aimed at ascertaining the technical, economic and legal aspects concerning the provision of such services and the compliance of mobile operators strategies limiting their use with the applicable legal framework. 
In particular, according to the consultation paper, with reference to:
  • consumer protection issues: the Authority will review whether discriminatory conducts damaging specific categories of users took place; while in relation to
  • the protection of competition: the Authority will review the relationships between network operators and service providers to verify whether any strategy limiting the competition in this market took place.
VoIP services have been regulated in Italy back in 2006, but despite of the initial offer of VoIP services by a number of new operators, subsequently most of these operators faced difficulties in making their offers attractive for Italian users. Also, another issue in this sector was that the Italian Communications Authority has not published yet the protocol of interconnection for the so called "nomadic VoIP numbers" i.e. numbers allowing users to make and receive calls at any termination point on the Italian territory. Therefore, VoIP services can currently be offered only through numbers that can be used within a specific district. 
This informative review might be the first step towards an increase of the offer of VoIP services in Italy.      
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Thursday, November 19, 2009
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The other day after having lost the tenth online auction because of the Internet connection speed of my smartphone, I started thinking about mobile gaming, mobile payments and how difficult is still to purchase an item on an e-commerce website using a smartphone. Despite the considerable increase of the number of smartphones in Italy (we are one of the countries with the highest percentage of mobiles per citizen), the  technologies dedicated to mobiles do not still allow players to use their phone just as they use their lap top.
What is the most relevant issue? Does it just depend on the Internet connection speed? When will we be able to play online poker using our smartphone without being worried of potential problems with our Internet connection?
My impression is that gaming operators will shortly enter in the mobile business becoming  MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) and the first player on the market that will make this move will attract a number of players. For instance, let’s think about the time we spend travelling on a train or waiting for someone, this time might be spent to place bets or to play to our favorite online skill games.
MVNOs are mobile operators that do not own their mobile network, but use the network of other operators. They are not very popular at the moment in Italy, but the development of  technologies dedicated to the gaming sector and the possibility to use the mobile networks of other operators (without bearing the costs of setting such network) might be open an interesting new market for gaming operators.
Considering the fast growth of the Italian gaming market I would not be surprised if some operators will follow a similar approach in the next months.
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Friday, November 13, 2009
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eGaming Review has defined - in a recent report - the Italian market "huge". Indeed - according to the report - the Italian market is expected to become by the end of 2009 the largest European gaming market generating a turnover of € 18.7 bn. Also, these figures are likely to considerably increase in the next years taking into account that the percentage of money lost by Italians online is expected to be just 5% in 2009 which is very low if compared to the UK where it is 18-20%. 
My understanding is that the launch of cash games and videolotteries (that is expected to occur at the beginning of 2010) will further increase the potentials of the Italian market. In fact, on one hand operators offering online poker games which have been the most popular games during 2009 will be able to increase the range and the mechanic of games offered to players. While in the offline world, the opening of videlottery casinos is likely to lead to the opening of new casinos almost everywhere in Italy that will represent a big change if it is considered that only 4 casinos are currently opened in Italy.
I believe that the Italian gaming market has been able to reach the abovementioned targets also because of the clearer rules that have been recently issued and those that will be passed in the next months. The new legal scenario has encouraged the big players on the market to obtain an Italian gaming license and to perform aggressive marketing activities in Italy. 
Finally, as the foreign operators have only recently entered into the Italian market or are about to enter into it, the Italian gaming market does not appear to be fully mature and it seems that there is still room for new entrants.
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
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Following a number of discussions on the topic, the revised version of the ePrivacy Directive governing the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector will be shortly adopted by the European Commission.
The current proposal prescribes: 
  1. Mandatory Notification of Personal Data Breaches: communications providers and ISPs processing individuals' personal data that have been compromised (e.g. because of a destruction, a loss, an alteration or an unauthorised disclosure) shall inform such individuals if the breach is likely to damage them;  
  2. Spyware and Cookies: ISPs shall provide users with better information on the use of cookies and easiers means to control them;
  3. Spamming: persons negatively affected by spam will be entitled to bring effective legal proceedings against spammers;
  4. Enforcement Powers: national data protection authorities will have stronger powers enabling them for instance to immediately stop breaches.
These new measures are very welcome as the potential damages that individuals can suffer because of the processing of their personal data by communications operators and ISPs are considerable and often individuals are not in the position to control the usage of such data by such operators. However, operators are likely to criticise such proposal since it renders them subject to further privacy obligations in addition to the already burdensome obligations recently put in place for instance through the implementation of the Data Retention Directive
Indeed, the Data Retention Directive as implemented in Italy obliges communications operators to store telephone and Internet traffic data and to adopt very stringent security measures in the storage of such data sanctioning the breach of these obligations is sanctioned with considerable fines.
We will see what will happen next!
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Saturday, November 7, 2009
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I had discussed in a previous post about the draft law decree filed by Ms. Brambilla, the Italian Ministry of the Tourism, allowing the opening of casinos in all the Italian five stars hotels. This law proposal have been highly criticized also because according to the press it would have led to very limited benefits in the tourism sector, while it might become very dangerous for citizens.
The Italian members of the Parliament seem to have now lowered their targets. Indeed, the proposal recently filed by Mr. Pastorio and Mr. Brunetta prescribes the opening of “only” 8 new casinos that shall be located in towns where there are already in place hotels, restaurants and other services able to meet the tourists’ demands which - according to the promoters of such law - are likely to substantially increase as a direct consequence of the opening of a casino.
It is difficult to assess the reliability of these law proposals considering that a number of law proposals regarding the opening of new casinos have already been issued in the past and none of them has eventually passed.
In any case, if any of these proposals pass, it will be interesting to see whether such new casinos will be still managed by the local municipalities - as occurs with the current 4 Italian casinos - or they will become a new business opportunity for private gaming operators.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009
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OUT-LAW.COM reports that Mr. Kaplan, the founder of BetOnSports.com, has been jailed for four years in the United States since Internet gambling is there illegal under local laws and Kaplan and his company were offering their games to US residents through the Internet, even if the company was based in Costa Rica. 
This news raises the interesting issue concerning the offer through the Internet of games by operators based abroad that do not hold a local gaming license. Indeed, Italian criminal laws require that the offer of games to players located in Italy is allowed only to operators holding an Italian gaming license i.e. even if an operator is licensed for instance in the UK or in Austria cannot offer its games to Italian residents, unless it holds an Italian gaming licence. 
However, Italian authorities have faced relevant difficulties in forcing operators to comply with such obligations because of the relevant issues in enforcing orders abroad especially in tax heavens where most of such operators are based. Consequently, the criminal sanctions prescribed by Italian gaming law for the breach of the abovementioned prohibitions have been very rarely enforced.
To sort this issue, the Italian gaming authority obliged in 2007 Internet service providers to implement filters which blocked the access by players located in Italy to websites run by non-licensed operators that are listed a monthly basis on the website of the Italian gaming authority. 
This measure however has ended up not to be very effective since non-licensed operators frequently change the web address of their websites and allow the access from players to their websites through affiliate websites.
The current scenario therefore risks to damage the investments of licensed operators that are consequently putting pressure on the Italian gaming authority to foster the setting up of more effective measures.
What will these measures be? the blocking of IP addresses of gaming servers, the blocking of financial transactions, the impossibility for non-licensed operators which acted in breach of local gaming laws to apply for a gaming license?   
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Sunday, November 1, 2009
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Playbonuscasino.com reports that Italian casinos and foreign casinos located close to Italian borders fear the negative consequences that might potentially derive from the launch of Videolottery casinos. 
As already discussed, the setting up of gaming halls dedicated to Videlotteries (VLTs) (the so called "VLT casinos") is expected to lead to considerable changes in the Italian gaming market where presently there are only 4 casinos, all located in the North of Italy (Venice, Sanremo, Campione d'Italia and Saint Vincent), and the opening of further casinos is prohibited by criminal laws, unless legislative developments occur. 
Because of the legal constraints to the opening of additional "real" casinos, casinos located close to Italian boundaries attract a considerable number of Italian players and - for instance -they reppresent 80% of the Lugano casino's clients.
Following the launch of VLT casinos, some of the current Italian real casino players might prefer VLT casinos to real casinos taking into account on one hand that VLT casinos will be located in most of the Italian cities and therefore will reppresent a very convenient solution and on the other hand VLTs will award prizes up to € 500,000 which might be equal or exceed those of real casinos.   
VLTs might become an additional channel of business for Italian casinos that might open VLT casinos on the Italian territory taking advantage of their consolidated brand and experience in the sector, but also other gaming operators are planning to set up VLT casinos whose appearance will recal real casinos and for this purpose they are currently recruiting casino managers from any part of the world.
The Italian gaming scenario will therefore substantially change in the next two years and it will be interesting to see which operators will become the leaders of a market to be created from scratch.
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