In a surprising about-face the Italian government has announced it is going to issue 17,000 licenses for betting shops, casinos, online gaming and sports books. This is 180° change from October when Italy was still pursuing strict suppressive measures. The “big boys” of the industry are already lining up for licenses.
This will almost certainly have a cascading effect throughout the entire EU. Already Greece, Ireland and the Czech Republic are watching these developments very closely with an open mind. Spain has already decided to follow Italy’s lead. They are even reports that Canada is going to defy the US and go forward with the extension of online gaming.
No one seems to care what the Bush administration or the U.S. Congress will think about this.
If the Bush administration chooses to “push the issue”, the repercussions will almost certainly be financial and political. One possible effect is a narrowing of the definition of money laundering everywhere outside the US as a counterbalance to an ever widening US definition which will include money from all forms of gambling that the US does not directly tax and regulate. Even a hairline crack in such a fundamental international banking policy could have vast and unforeseen results if that crack becomes a fissure under pressure.
Every single battle that the US loses on the gambling front will fuel opposition to its policies on other fronts especially with regard to drugs and coca production. In an effort to impose its morals on the world, the US will face the real possibility of having its opinions become irrelevant.
And as for Italy, “the Dolce Vita” will just get a little sweeter…