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Online Gambling Lawyer
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Volume: 16 Issue: 10
(October 2017)

poker liquidity deal raises concerns italian politics italian politician senator franco mirabelli voiced concerns implementation italy shared liquidity agreement

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Poker liquidity deal raises concerns in Italian politics

The Italian politician Senator Franco Mirabelli has voiced concerns about the implementation in Italy of the shared liquidity agreement for online poker, which was signed on 6 July 2017 by regulators from Italy, Spain, Portugal and France; Mirabelli tabled on 4 October a parliamentary question for the Italian Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan, asking him to intervene to prevent shared poker liquidity being implemented in Italy. “The parliamentary question tabled by Senator Mirabelli may - at least - delay the implementation of the project as scheduled by the participating countries,” believes Gianluca Cambareri, Partner at Tonucci & Partners.

The agreement will allow the pooling of online poker liquidity between the four participating EU Member States, allowing poker players in each country to play against one another online. The agreement entered into force as of July 2017, but requires each participating country to adopt implementing regulations for the agreement to take effect, with implementation expected by the end of 2017 or in early 2018. In Italy, the Parliament will need to adopt a specific legislative measure to implement liquidity sharing; Cambareri notes that “Should the concerns expressed by Senator Mirabelli be shared at the Italian Parliament level, there is a real possibility that the shared liquidity project in Italy will be blocked.” Valérie Peano and Giovanni Carboni, Partners at European Gambling Lawyers & Advisors, add that “the political opinion on gambling opportunities in Italy both offline and online is presently very negative. It is certainly possible to freeze or at least to cause the postponement of new possibilities in this field such as the poker liquidity sharing agreement, at least until the next elections take place in Spring 2018, or later.”

Specifically, Senator Mirabelli, who is a member of the Italian parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission, has expressed his concern that, inter alia, international poker liquidity could be used for money laundering, that the liquidity sharing agreement lacks a legislative base, and the Italian Government should in general avoid opening up new opportunities for gambling. He has been joined in speaking out against the liquidity sharing agreement by the Italian Deputy Paola Binetti, who is concerned that the liquidity agreement will encourage illegal activities and lead to a growth in the levels of gambling addiction in Italy.

“The project needs to be implemented with specific common rules by the participating countries in order to avoid the above mentioned risks,” said Cambareri. “As matters currently stand, it is reasonable to say that the shared liquidity project - in its current form - seems to not adequately address this issues.” However, Peano and Carboni believe that “each of [Mirabelli’s] concerns can be challenged,” and further, “These concerns do not consider the aim of the agreement itself to share best practices, enhance controls and exchange information to prevent fraud and collusion.”

The immediate future for the poker liquidity sharing agreement in Italy will not be known until Minister Padoan responds to Senator Mirabelli’s question. “I believe that the other Member States could go ahead without Italy,” said Stefano Sbordoni, Founding Partner at Sbordoni & Partners. “But considering the volume of poker gaming produced in the other countries, I don’t know if, for authorised operators, the sharing of liquidity will be a good deal without Italian players.”

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