ROME, 04 dicembre 2018 – Stanleybet has an open channel of communication with the Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM). Not only that: in 2013, the tax agreement with the administration – which would have guaranteed the bookmaker access to the market – broke down at the last minute because of an unforeseen event. This is revealed in the following interview with the CEO of the Anglo-Maltese company, Giovanni Garrisi, by Agipronews, which also covered the first suspension of tax proceedings – decided by the Bari Provincial Commission – a few days after the referral of the matter to the European Court of Justice. At issue is the flat-rate betting tax assessments with regard to the owners of Stanleybet agencies.
Let’s start with the most recent event: what will be the practical effect of the referral to the EU Court of the documents regarding an assessment for the flat-rate tax?
The Court will issue its ruling in around 18 months. It is more than likely that, at the request of the defence, the pending proceedings will be suspended to await the decisions of the higher court that will be taken in Luxembourg. Suspension has already been proposed in two individual hearings conducted after the referral to the Court of Justice was lodged. For one of the two, we have already have the Court’s decision: the CTP (Provincial Tax Commission) of Bari accepted the application last Friday and ordered the suspension of the proceedings until the ruling of the European Court. It would be a great saving of costs for us and the State if ADM adopted the same approach: because the thousands of hearings that we expect in the coming 18 months could then be suspended by agreement between the parties and without them actually attending.
Why does it seem impossible – at least for the moment – to repeat the agreement that Stanley stipulated last year with the Revenue Agency for the flat-rate tax on bets?
Because the dispute with the Revenue Agency concerned a tax, while the demands of ADM, on the basis of the 2011 Stability Law, concern a penalty disguised as a tax. Negotiations with the Revenue Agency were successful due to the extraordinary goodwill of both parties to find a solution. The same thing could happen with ADM but, on the technical level, the matter is complicated and it would be necessary to sit around a technical round table to study it. It would make good sense for everyone, both us and ADM, to find a solution before the Court of Justice makes its ruling.
We have read some statements in which you invite – with a certain harshness – the Italian Authorities to regard Stanley as being on a par with Italian operators, including from the tax and operational point of view. Is the conflict being further exacerbated?
The conflict is already too bitter so there is no reason to make it more so. The statements to which you refer were expression of displeasure, not harshness. That’s why I felt it was my duty to rectify them. My intention is to resolve the problems, not exacerbate them. That said, it is clear, however, that if we are attacked and damaged, we have the duty and the right to take action. This is the exercise of fundamental rights, including at the constitutional level, as confirmed in the various proceedings over alleged threats, all groundless and dismissed, which were launched against us.
Betting, Garrisi (Stanleybet’s CEO): “Very close to a tax agreement with ADM in 2013, correspondence underway with the State Monopolies”.
What is really preventing Stanley’s entry into the system? The dispute with Italy seems endless: the coming ruling of the EU Court (on 19 December on the ‘Lotto’ lottery) will be the ninth in the Italian gaming sector.
I think that there has been a lack of willingness to fully understand the Stanley phenomenon. I believe the major licence holders, unhappy at the arrival of such a significant English competitor, with their capacity to exert influence, bear great responsibility. Today, however, I believe that influence has been reduced and that Stanley, in the collective imagination, is recognised as having played a positive role in favour of the industry. ADM has modernised and enriched the system many times with new gaming methods and opportunities that Stanley was actually the first to introduce in Italy such as, for example, virtual gaming, which now rightly belongs to all.
On several occasions in the early months of 2013, I met Dr Magistro, at that time the Director of AAMS (Independent Administration of State Monopolies) and his collaborators. And I must say that an outline agreement had been reached that was due to take effect from September 2013. But then, during the summer, the Finance Police went berserk and launched hundreds of seizures and proceedings against our Data Transmission Centres. All groundless, as the Courts established, but it is clear that, under those conditions, no agreement could last. However, I must make clear that I later learned that ADM had no role in those closures and so I hope that the dialogue can resume.
Is it true that you officially asked the Ministry of the Economy and Finance and ADM to link up with SOGEI and be subject to the regulations in force in the regulated market? Can you summarise the content of the exchange of communications between the company and the Authorities?
Yes, on 30 June 2016, we wrote to ADM, at the time the entire licence system was renewed, asking it to provide us with instructions for starting to pay the flat-rate tax in the same measure as the licence holders. In the same letter, we also confirmed our complete willingness to be connected to the national totalizator, to give the guarantee laid down and be subject to the licence-holder obligations, both administrative and economic (for example, the licence fee). For 2 years, despite various reminders, no reply arrived. In the meeting of the Stanley Board held on 10 July 2018, it was decided to reiterate the request to ADM as if it were a new request but, this time, to also inform the Ministry of the Economy about it. On 16 October, we sent a reminder to ADM, again sending a copy to the Ministry of the Economy. Once again, the Ministry answered immediately but, this time, also contacted ADM directly and asked it to reply to us. Finally, on 26 November, the General Manager of ADM replied to us. The assessment of the reply and the next steps are already on the agenda of the next meeting of the Stanley directors (Board), which will be held in Liverpool in the coming week, on 7 December 2018. The content of ADM’s reply is confidential. But I am positive: the talks that had been interrupted could now resume.
The company has taken part in various international Gaming fairs: which markets are you focusing on in the coming months?
Primarily in South America, for which we are seeking local partners of good standing. But we are also looking closely at the Scandinavian markets, where we are already present in Denmark and where we took part in the consultation process promoted by the Swedish government. We are also assessing a number of proposals regarding an important Asian market.