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Europe moves to liberalize gambling

18 December 2006

ITALY – As reported by the Financial Times: "In a move viewed by many in the sector as the latest evidence of a shift towards the liberalisation of gambling in Europe, Rome will award new gaming licences to a range of national and international companies vying for the chance to run betting shops, kiosks, casinos and online services.

"The closely watched decision comes as governments, which have traditionally viewed gambling as an activity on the margins of acceptablity, are taking a closer interest in the sector because of the wider access to gaming brought about by advances in technology. With the Spanish regions poised to follow Italy in licensing online and onshore gaming, and a critical decision in Germany also expected imminently, operators are increasingly bullish about the prospects of attracting new customers in undeveloped markets.

"Europe's €50bn ($65bn) betting market has become even more critical to the sector since the end of September when the US shut its doors to online gaming and arrested UK executives connected with what was far and away the fastest-growing part of the industry.

"The entire online gaming industry, which saw its value plunge by more than half virtually overnight after the US tightened its laws on online gaming, is now regrouping around Europe with new games offered in a variety of languages.

"…The UK is in the vanguard of liberalisation, implementing rules that will allow all forms of gaming. Under current regulations activities such as online gaming exist in a legal grey zone and there are heavy restrictions on the advertising of all types of gambling…"

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