Betting in Sports Events: Gambling in Italy

By Antignani, Felice; Colucci, Michele et al. | The International Sports Law Journal, July-October 2009 | Go to article overview

Betting in Sports Events: Gambling in Italy


Antignani, Felice, Colucci, Michele, Majani, Felix, The International Sports Law Journal


1. Introduction

The purpose of this study is to conduct an analysis on the betting games' sector. To begin with, this article shall underline the dominant role of the Italian State in the past years and how the state is slowly losing its grip and role in relation to gambling in sports as a result of the increasing flexibilities of internet. We shall thereafter highlight the key economic consequences produced by betting on all the parties involved in these activities.

How can we define betting in sporting events? How can we distinguish legal betting from illegal gambling? How can we combine the needs of the State with its desire to exercise and manage the betting system with the globalisation of the market?

We shall try to give some answers to these questions through conducting a study on the Italian "grants system", and how this system has been modified over the years, from 1948 up to December 2008. The definition of "gambling" has been modified too; a strict definition of gambling can be found from the Italian Criminal Code and in a particular Act (L. n.401/1989) which is directed at preserving the State's control and monopoly over gambling laws despite rulings from the European Court of Justice to the effect that the Italian national laws are contrary to the European principles on freedom of establishment and freedom of providing services.

The second part of our study shall focus on the AAMS, its structure, its functions, the evolution of its role and its aims for the future. At the same time, we shall distinguish between sporting and non sporting related betting events (1).

2. The Definition of gambling as a criminal offence

The definition of gambling can be found in the "Study of Gambling Services in the Internal Market of the European Union" of 2006, wherein gambling has been defined as " any service, including any information society service, which involves wagering a stake with a monetary value in games of chance, including lotteries and betting transactions" (2).

This definition has more or less been adopted in the same breath in Article 721 of the Italian Criminal Code, which aims to punish gambling activities which are conducted in a public area and/or private clubs. Art. 721 states that: "Gambling is playing games for a personal profit when the results are completely based on uncertain events".

Over the previous years, Italian doctrine (3) has been established and evolved for purposes of distinguishing gambling from simple betting games. The above mentioned list is based on the two criteria described under Article 721, these criteria being i) the personal profit and ii) the results coming from uncertain events. On this basis, gambling includes:

Bingo, black jack, lottery, roulette, slot machines, video poker,

Simple betting includes: betting on sports events, betting on horse races, poker, bridge, and flipper. It is important to underline that the players' personal abilities to contribute in the game being played fall under the second group (4).

2.1. Legal Gambling

As earlier highlighted, Article.718 of the Italian criminal code punishes gambling activities which take place in public and/or private clubs. However it is important to note that gambling can sometimes be legal,

and especially in situations where there is public authorisation. Public authorisations serve various purposes; for instance, through the grant coming from the State, the possibility of injecting revenues is made higher. We shall revisit this discussion during our study on the evolution of the "grant system" in Italy.

3. Act No. 401/1989 and the European reaction in the "Gambelli" and "Placanica" cases

As earlier seen, betting on sports events does not amount to illegal gambling. However, Italian judges have on some occasions tried to subject such types of betting to the rules of Article 718. A classic example involves "Tontero", which is an unauthorised betting activity in Italy, whose authors faced criminal consequences The decision of the Italian judges to the "Tonrero" case however did not root out the problems related to betting and gaming,. …

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