Bookies take Italy to court (Englisch)

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Britains leading bookmakers will this week sue the Italian government for millions of pounds in a row over access to their gambling websites.

Ladbrokes, William Hill, Betfair and Coral Eurobet are among several bookies that have been blacklisted by the Italians.

Under new laws, the government in Rome allows only approved gambling sites to be available and attempts to access UK sites are blocked. The legislation from the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance was passed in November and came into force on February 1.

It is now a criminal offence for internet service providers to allow access to blacklisted sites and they face a £120,000 fine if they break the law. Since last month, anyone trying to access gaming sites such as ladbrokes.com have been directed to a page from the Independent Administration of Legal Monopolies, which says the site has not been approved.

The Remote Gambling Association, the UK industry trade body, will launch legal action against the legislation through its lawyer SG Berwin in the administrative court of Lazio, the department for Rome.

'This legislation breaches our treaty rights,' said RGA chief Clive Hawkswood, who claimed Italy was also in breach of European Commission rules by not notifying the EC of its action.

'The companies affected are all licensed to operate in the EU, but Italy is preventing-them from doing so.' The RGA will also lodge a complaint this week with the Enterprise and Industry Commission in the EC.

The complaint lists other countries such as Germany, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Hungary, which are restricting the advertisement and promotion of online gambling sites.

But the RGA is taking its separate action against Italy because 'it is the most blatant', according to Hawkswood. 'They are protecting their own industry.'

Individual bookmakers are calculating how much the new Italian law is costing their business, but the claim is expected to run into millions of pounds.

Graham Sharpe, media relations director of William Hill, said: 'The gambling situation in the EC is a mess.'

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