casino firm shelves USA plans, looks at Italy instead
As the online casinos
debate over legalities rages in the United States, the online
casinos industry is at a tricky time.
The US House Judiciary Committee will mark up a bill introduced
by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R) that would ban almost all of
online casinos, including bets on sporting events at online
casinos and games of chance -- namely poker, which has enjoyed a
boom in recent years with the proliferation of thousands of
online casinos on the internet.
The online casinos legislation is still up in the air.
The bill would update the Federal Wire Wager Act, which
prohibits gambling over telephone lines but may not apply to
online casinos because not all Web traffic travels over phone
lines. It also would force banks to block transactions related
to online casinos and would empower law enforcement agencies to
force Internet service providers to remove or disable links to
With this online casinos news in mind, a giant UK online casinos
betting group is to shelve its US Internet expansion plans for
now, "In view of ongoing uncertainties within the U.S.
legislative environment," Reuters reports this week.
The top tier British online casinos firm made the announcement
while releasing its first-half operating numbers Thursday,
showcasing a credible 12 percent rise in profits of GBP 151.3
million in the six months to June 30, compared with GBP 134.7
million over the same period last year.
The online casinos group has other expansion plans in mind and
is preparing to invest heavily in them, however. Spokesmen said
that the firm had signed a joint venture agreement with Italian
betting company Pianeta Scommesse, establishing it as a
government-accredited bookmaker in Italy.
"We plan to invest around Euro 100 million ($128 million) to
develop retail, internet and telephone betting propositions in
Italy over the next 5 years," Chief Executive Chris Bell
The firm will start its five-year Italian investment plan by
paying Euro 1.3 million for a 51 percent stake in a joint
venture with Pianeta Scommesse. Italy has about 770 betting
shops for a population comparable to that of the U.K., which has
more than 8 000 bookmaking outlets, the British company said.
The investment in Pianeta Scommesse, Italy's fourth-biggest
odds-setting service, gives the firma legal basis to offer
betting in the country, where total gambling sales were about
Euro 28 billion last year, Chief Financial Officer Rosemary
Thorne said in an interview, citing Italian government
Italy is liberalizing its online gambling market, which will
increase the number of Italian betting outlets tenfold,
according to Thorne. About 30 percent of the 7 000 new outlets
will be dedicated betting shops, she said.
The firm said it had made further international progress in
Vietnam, where it was on a shortlist of three to operate the
sports lottery, and in Turkey as well.