Freedom to provide services
C-463/13 – Stanley International Betting et Stanleybet Malta c Ministero dell’Economia e delle Finanze , 22 January 2015
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Italian legislation that provides a new reform for tender offers proposing gambling and betting licences with stringent conditions to avoid the exclusion of some operators and fight against crimes related to games is in principle compatible with the articles 45 and 56 of the Treaty on the functioning of the EU (TFEU) and the principles of the principles of equal treatment and effectiveness.
In the present case, the society Stanley International Betting brought an action for the annulment of the recent call for tenders organised by Italian legislation, arguing the conditions for acquisition of licences are more stringent particularly because the licences proposed by the call for tender are a shorter validity than those previously granted.
The Italian Council of State (ICS), who had the rule on the case, stated the new conditions are stringent but clearly and apply indiscriminately to former and new operators, the ICS sought a preliminary ruling from the ECJ. The latter was asked whether the new Italian legislation on gambling games is compatible with the fundamental freedom to provide services enshrined in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and the principles of equal treatment and effectiveness.
The ECJ confirmed the ICS’s ruling that the new conditions are stringent but clearly and apply indiscriminately to former and new operators. The ECJ stated that the criteria must to be objective and non-discriminatory.
Moreover, according the ECJ, the field of gambling activities is not harmonised at European level and therefore leaves Member States free to adopt their own laws as long as those laws do not go beyond what is necessary for overriding reasons in the public interest as the fight against fraud. According to the ECJ, the Italian law on gambling and betting games can be authorised regarding the articles 49 and 56 TFEU and the principles of equal treatment and effectiveness.