Stanley was established in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1958 and, after over 20 years of development in Ireland, relocated to England in 1979, setting up its headquarters in Liverpool.
In 1986, after the extraordinary expansion of its betting shops and casinos, the Company went public on the London Stock Exchange and changed its name to Stanley Leisure Plc. The Stanley Leisure share quickly joined the prestigious ranks of the market’s 250 blue chips used each day to calculate the stock exchange index.
Stanley International, a 50/50 joint venture between Stanley Leisure Plc and an Italo-British player was established in July 1997 and immediately began overseas operations in Croatia and Italy.
In 1998, Stanley Leisure Plc requested authorisation from the Italian Ministry of Finance to participate, with its 100 betting shops, in the test phase for betting assigned to SNAI as a monopoly. The Ministry’s response was that it could only tender once the test phase was complete. But the 1999 call for bids for 1,000 concessions included certain disqualification clauses: publicly listed companies were not eligible to tender. Following Stanley’s complaint with the European Commission, a violation procedure was commenced against Italy. However, it was not until the rulings of Court of Justice Judges Gambelli (2003) and Placanica (2007) that Stanley’s disqualification was found to be in violation of EU law.
In May 2005, Stanley Leisure sold all its betting shops in the UK (approximately 700) to William Hill, while remaining a leader in England with its casinos and focusing on significant development in Europe through its investee Stanley International.
The Italian government put nine-year concessions up for tender in August 2006, but the clauses on the distances between points-of-sale favoured the 1,000 winners of the 1999 call, from which Stanley had been unfairly excluded. Stanley took action and, in 2012, Judge Costa Cifone with the Court of Justice ruled that the Italian government had, with the clause in the invitation to tender (under the Bersani decree), once again violated EU law to Stanley’s detriment.
September 2006: the Malaysian group Genting International launched a complete takeover bid on the London Stock Exchange for Stanley Leisure Plc. The bid was a success.
The following month, the Italo-British owner of 50% of Stanley International acquired the residual 50% from Genting International, assuming complete control of the English holding company that controls the entire group.
In 2012, Stanley and the Italian Regulator, ADM, met informally to discuss Stanley’s participation in another invitation to tender for a nine-year concession. However, the Monti decree unexpectedly established a concession term of only three years and included a clause requiring the free transfer of the network at the end of the concession, making it impossible for high-profile companies to participate. Following the dispute that arose, the Court of Justice (Laezza’s decision of 2016) yet again confirmed that the Italian government was in violation of EU law with the free network transfer clause.
Meetings were held with the Italian Regulator and an understanding was reached for Stanley to tender for online services. Since then, Stanley has run betting operations remotely in Italy with a valid ADM licence. Stanley hopes to reach an agreement as soon as possible for retail services as well, and is putting all its efforts in this direction.
In 2014, at the end of the long non-competition period agreed with William Hill, Stanley resumed operations in the United Kingdom: it opened its first shop in this new era on 14 February 2014 in Liverpool.
Stanley holds a licence for retail and/or online operations in the United Kingdom and many other European countries. Only its Italian operations are cross-border under a Maltese licence, due to the discrimination that Stanley has faced in accessing Italian concessions, in violation of EU law, as confirmed by multiple rulings of the Court of Justice and Italian judges, including at the highest levels.
The Stanleybet Group is currently a major European player in the gaming industry and operates on the B2C market in Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Malta and the United Kingdom with a total of over 2,000 shops and offices and 3,000 employees and freelancers. The Group also operates in Croatia, Germany, Nigeria and Romania through its B2B brand, Magellan Robotech, which designs and develops sophisticated gaming products and solutions (click here to learn more about Magellan Robotech).
Giovanni Garrisi is a Doctor of Mathematics and started his professional career, in the 1970s, as a software developer working on the first IT system for the Italian state pension fund.
He subsequently worked on several major IT projects for the U.S. conglomerate Honeywell; following which he held a number of Director level roles at the ‘Ufficio Italiano dei Cambi’ (Bank of Italy), based on his expertise in mathematical modeling for the Italian monetary system, currency movements and IMF techniques for the preparation of the balance of payments.
Despite his successful rise in the industry, he took the bold decision to strike out and form his own IT business in 1983, initially developing gaming system software for intermediaries licensed by the Italian state.
In 1996, he established what is now the Stanleybet Group, as a joint venture company with British gambling giant Stanley Leisure Plc (FTSE 250 listed at that time). This joint venture was aimed at the European sports betting market, initially in Croatia and Italy, and thereafter in numerous other European countries. Dr Garrisi himself led the Stanleybet Legal Department, which was behind the landmark European Court of Justice rulings of Gambelli (2003), Placanica (2007), Costa/Cifone (2012) and Laezza (2015). These historic cases revolutionised the European sports betting market and were the catalyst for the opening to competition of numerous countries’ betting markets, that had previously been dominated by State monopolies. As a result, customers across Europe now have far more choice and a much better deal overall.
Following the sale of Stanley Leisure to Genting in 2006, Dr Garrisi bought out the latter from the Stanleybet Group and became its sole owner. He now acts as its CEO and is supported by a mixed British/Italian executive team (reflecting his own dual citizenship after over 20 years’ living in the U.K.), with many years of experience in the betting industry.
Today, the Stanleybet Group is one of the largest multi-jurisdiction retail operators in the European gaming sector and is present in Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Malta, and the U.K. (with plans to open shortly in Spain). The Group has over 2,000 outlets and 3,000 people working for it.
The Group also operates a separate B2B business, Magellan Robotech Ltd, which operates out of the UK (licensed (inter alia) by the UK Gambling Commission) and currently supplies third party businesses in Croatia and Romania. Magellan Robotech was championed by Dr. Garrisi in 2014, with the explicit aim of exploring new frontiers in the gambling industry using Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and other developing technologies. This business now has more than 100 professionals, based in the UK (Liverpool), dedicated to creating proprietary custom-made products and services for the Stanleybet Group and its other B2B customers.
At the beginning of this year, when the COVID-19 crisis was beginning to unfold, Dr. Garrisi decided to turn his mathematical expertise to develop a mathematical model to predict the spread of the virus in Italy, his home country (the epicenter of the virus at that time). His model was the first to accurately predict the peak of the virus in Italy during the first wave and predicted that the virus could, in theory (subject to strict enforcement of the national lockdown and external border controls), have been eradicated in Italy early/mid-May.
Dr. Garrisi’s professional achievements have been widely recognised by his industry peers: he has recently been introduced in the prestigious SBC Awards Sports Betting ‘Hall of Fame’ and shortlisted as Chief Executive Officer of the Year at the Vixio Global Regulatory Awards 2020 (celebrating the achievements of individuals, teams and businesses who have excelled in the field of compliance, social responsibility and responsible gaming).
Under Dr. Garrisi’s leadership, the Stanleybet Group’s overall mission is to improve operators ‘performances and efficiency, whilst enhancing the gaming experience for customers in a fun, fair and responsible way – whilst ensuring vulnerable groups are safeguarded and organised crime is kept out of its markets.