With new gambling laws expected to be in place and allowing foreign-based operators to run Internet casinos and online poker sites in Italy by the end of this year, online gambling giant 888 is taking aim at the market.
In a conference call to analysts yesterday, 888 CEO Gigi Levy stated that his company has “worked on this [market] for some time now” and that the planned launch of 888 casino games in Italy early next year wil be “very material” in terms of income planned. Levy also stated that, due to deals his company has signed with Bwin/PartyGaming and Italy-based Microgame, 888’s Italian offering will be strong: “Together [Bwin and Microgame] control 50%, or a bit more, of the poker market, and we have a few more deals in the pipeline.”
Because of unfavorable tax rates and prevailing market conditions, however, 888 will not be expanding into French poker rooms or casino gaming any time soon. France “is probably a very bad combination for us,” explained Levy. “It is only sports and poker. In sports, our offering is not really relevant at this time. With poker, we have not yet entered the market [and] we want to see how it works out. The taxes are high, so the ecosystem is under pressure. There is no casino, no bingo, [and] we did not find any significant local partners we are happy to work with and to share upside and risk with.”
Finally, Levy also stated that 888 is looking to the U.S. market as well, being “encouraged by the recent positive developments in the United States” and the company’s recent agreement reached with Harrah’s Interactive.
After recent corrections were made at the request of the European Commission, legislation for the new Italian gambling laws are back on track and could come into effect as early as October 7.