It is official. After online poker had been banned in Italy only two years ago, the government of the European nation has made the decision to legalize the game and regulate it.
Though poker had been legal in land-based casinos, the Italian government had been taking a hard look at numbers provided in online poker studies showing that nearly two million people were using the internet to play the game. It was becoming apparent that the ban on online poker had not been able to stop the public from participating in the activity, and instead of continuing to attempt enforcement of a law that was not serving its purpose, the better choice would be to legalize it in order to oversee it.
Better yet, the regulation of online poker gives the Italian government control over the licenses given in the state, not to mention the revenue available. A recent report by the Consumers Defense and Orientation Association showed that Italians were each spending an average of 600 Euros on online gambling, and poker was a substantial part of that number. With approximately $514 million in annual revenue at stake, regulation would allow the government to benefit from it by way of taking 3% of all gaming revenues.
The new law became effective in Italy on September 1st, and Italian citizens were allowed to begin playing cash games on the internet – legally and without fear of government retribution. In addition, public sports betting and bingo are now legalized as well, on the basis that all of the regulated games are ability-based and with fixed betting amounts.
Gioco Digitale, meaning “digital games,” was the first website to offer the real-money poker games during the first week of legalization. The Italian-based site is one of many to come, as it has been reported that 17,000 applications have been submitted to the Italian government for review in the hopes of cashing in on the Italian online gaming business.
Could the American government, as well as the governments of other European countries, take a lesson from Italy? We can only hope that Italy shows the world what a successful endeavor this can be – for the citizens as well as the government of the country involved. A partnership rather than a battle can better benefit everyone.