Stanleybet Malta Ltd., the Maltese subsidiary of the Liverpool based Stanleybet Group, has announced its decision to pay Italian retail betting tax to the Italian regulator, Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM), for the first time ever in Italy. The first payment, made on 2nd January 2023, with the “F24” form under the same rules that apply to Italian licensed operators, refers to the revenue made by Stanleybet in its Italian retail shops for the period 1st to 31st December 2022, which by law is due for payment by 31st January 2023. ADM was informed of this decision on the same day of the payment, via letter sent to its General Manager and to the 2 top officials responsible for gaming and betting at ADM.
Four sentences of the European Court of Justice, later confirmed by the Italian Court of Cassation and, recently, by the Italian Council of State, ruled that Stanleybet had been discriminated against with respect to free access to the Italian retail licensing system: both in the initial experimental phase (1998), and with regards to subsequent public tenders: in 2000, 2006 – with the “Bersani” tender – and, lastly, in 2012, with the “Monti” tender.
In addition, ADM prevented Stanleybet from entering the 2015 and 2016 “amnesty” proceedings. In fact, with multiple trials initiated by the Italian Regulator between 2014 and 2017 against senior Stanleybet executives and against Stanleybet shop owners (CTDs), ADM effectively made Stanleybet’s participation in those proceedings impossible, due to a lack of fair and objective entry conditions. Those proceedings ended in December 2017, when the deadline for seeking participation in the “amnesty” expired.
It should be noted that Stanleybet has never actually filed a complaint against ADM – despite all the crime reports that have been filed against its business in Italy and yet were ultimately concluded in Stanleybet’s favour.
The company has always favoured the path of dialogue. In fact, around the time of the expiry of the Italian retail betting licensing system, on 30th June 2016, Stanleybet, which by then was officially recognised as a lawful operator by the Italian courts, formally asked ADM to allow it to start paying the Italian retail betting tax in the same way as the Italian licensed operators do, by being linked to the “national totaliser” (the centralised data control system for licensed operators). ADM ignored the letter for 3 long years, and then only responded when forced to do so by the Italian Ministry of the Economy, whom Stanleybet urged to intervene as a last resort.
ADM’s historical aversion to Stanleybet should come as no surprise. After all, how could ADM, the organisation which itself was responsible for the discrimination suffered by Stanleybet, then turn around and admit that Stanleybet’s activity was always lawful? In addition, as ADM is a government body should the Italian Government not share some of the responsibility?
With the 2011 Stability Law and subsequent amendments, the Italian legislator provided for payment of the retail betting tax, not only by operators licensed in Italy but also by operators that were not licensed by the Italian authorities. However, in the latter case the betting tax payable could instead be calculated by reference to shop revenue based on tripling the average betting shop revenue for the relevant province. ADM then chose to apply these “tripling” provisions to Stanleybet, thereby effectively admitting that it still considered Stanleybet to be an illegal operator. The result of ADM’s actions was a large and unnecessary tax dispute, which remains ongoing.
During 2022, Stanleybet proposed to ADM that it was prepared to immediately start paying the retail betting tax as a licensed operator, subject to a formal settlement agreement to deal with alleged historic liabilities, with the intention of drawing a line under the issue, once and for all. Although various meetings were held in “Piazza Mastai”, ADM’s headquarters, even with the initial participation of the ADM Director himself, ADM’s position remained totally against this proposal. Even numerous settlement proposals put forward to ADM in individual tax proceedings, often with the support of the relevant Judge, were met with an absolute refusal by ADM to reconsider the calculations and Stanleybet’s position as an Italian licensed operator.
Given that any attempt to get ADM to accept a reasonable solution to the dispute seemed futile, Stanleybet proposed during a Group Board Meeting of its Executive Directors in Liverpool, held on 15th December 2022, to start paying the Italian retail betting tax, exercising the right to pay taxes in Italy like any other licensed operator. The decision was formally approved, after further deliberation and planning, at a further extraordinary Group Board Meeting of its Executive Directors held on 28th December 2022. Stanleybet hopes that ADM will consider this proactive decision not as a challenge, but as an act of common sense made in good faith and in the best interests of the Italian State. The Maltese gambling regulator (MGA), which is well aware of Stanleybet’s history in Italy, fully understands Stanleybet’s decision and the reasons behind it, and was officially informed at the same time as ADM. Whilst Stanleybet Malta Ltd.’s aim is for full participation in the Italian regulated system, it remains and wishes to remain, a licensee of the MGA – which it thanks officially, and with deep gratitude, for its continued support.