Stringent actions against terminals connecting to gambling websites

by DLA Piper
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Gaming laws banning gaming terminals (the so called “totem“) located in public places connecting to online gaming platforms and relative criminal sanctions have been stressed by the Italian regulator in a strong move against them.

AAMS has issued a notice outlining gaming laws and sanctions expressly prohibiting the placing of gaming terminals in public places if connected to online gaming platforms. Indeed, the position of the authority is that not only this practice is illegal if the the browsed platform through the terminal is not run under an Italian license, but even if such terminals connect to licensed platforms. The Italian remote gaming license held by operators would cover only the remote offering of games which would not include the offering through gaming terminals located in public places as prescribed by both gaming laws and the terms of the license agreement governing remote gaming licenses. This conduct would be punished with the criminal sanctions applicable against the offering of games without a license.

Likewise, according to AAMS, the same sanction would be applicable to terminals aimed at performing promotional activities that hide gambling activities. Indeed, Italian laws on prize promotions prescribe very stringent formalities and obligations for the performance of prize promotions whose breach is sanctioned with fines up to € 500K. Even though I believe that some of such obligations can be waived, the main requirement of such promotions is that the participation to the game/promotion has to be free. Therefore in case of payment by a player for the game which can be triggered also by an increase of the purchase price of products/services, the regulator believes that such conduct would be a prohibited promotion that can be deemed to be also as an illegal gambling activity falling under the prohibition referred above.

On the contrary, the prohibition above would not apply to terminals such as PCs and IPads have been provided to the public with the purpose allowing customers to browse on any website rather than with the specific purpose of pushing customers to gambling on gaming websites. The tricky issue is given by the qualification of a computer placed in a shop with advertising material of a gaming operator that is mainly used to connect to the operator’s website but can also get access to other websites. And indeed recent court decisions increased such uncertainty.

The action that the regulator will adopt in relation to the cases above will be to report them to criminal authorities and it will be interesting the reaction of operators to that.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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