Italy, Bitcoin, Mafia and Gambling

During the recent speech of the Italian Democratic Party member, Lucrezia Ricchiuti, it was expressed that Bitcoins are powering up Italian mafia and are providing a great help to their money laundering operation.

Online gaming is a sticky subject, as in many areas online gambling is still illegal. According to reports, it was stated that opening up a bitcoin gambling website is a trivial task, and once in operation, the government does not get access to the identify of the gamblers. This creates a catch twenty two, where the players certainly benefit from the security and anonymity of the platform – the casino operations are less restricted due to the lack of the oversight – yet the government is not able to collect any taxes, licensing fees and so on.

It was indicated that the Italian government might look into regulating this sector as a possible solution. Even though there are many advantages to bitcoin gambling, when compared against both online and offline gambling, the European governments seem to take action only now. Previously, bitcoin gambling became regulated in the UK and one of its dependent territories – the Isle of Man. Both of the gambling authorities have realized that taking more control over the bitcoin gambling sector is the right thing to do, as it would get the whole industry out of the gray area.

As the UK introduced bitcoin casino licensing procedures, the first regulated bitcoin casino appeared on the market. It is expected that the other operators will follow this practice too, especially if they generate a healthy volume from the English market.

European’s largest home to the online gambling companies, Malta, has recently declined to offer regulation to the bitcoin casino operators. The main issues that the Maltese authorities pointed out are quite related to Lucrezia Ricchiuti’s threats of money laundering and the lack of government control. Well, considering the amount of casino operators that are based out of Malta, perhaps it is too challenging for the Maltese online gaming authorities to regulate this niche without doubling its staff.

While the harsh response from the Italian government was expected, we can project that its policy will look pretty similar to the one issued by the UK. The main fear is that some of the bitcoin casino operators may not actually qualify for the license as the Italian gambling watchdog has a set of harsh rules to follow. First of all, an online casino operator is required to have a European turnover of not less than 1.5M EUR within the last two years of operations. This can certainly be a showstopper for the smaller bitcoin betting sites. Apart from that, the cost of the license is set at 350,000 EUR, which is quite pricey too and may not be feasible for the bitcoin gambling casino operators. Finally, the amount of licenses is currently limited to 200, and there is a risk that by the time bitcoin gambling becomes fully legal in Italy, there will be no more licenses to issue.

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