22 February 2006


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Business Today



Italy blocks Maltese internet gaming sites

Matthew Vella

The Italian state will on Friday block 684 internet gaming sites which are considered to be illegal, to protect Italian gamers from “phishing” – the fraudulent acquisition of passwords and credit card details.
All sites licensed in Malta are included in the list, which was put into force following Italy’s 2006 Budget, to block all online gaming sites which are not licensed in Italy. The law stipulates that ISPs in Italy should block the websites, otherwise they will be fined for every that they are in breach of the law.
The Italians have threatened ISPs in Malta with a daily fine of EUR180,000 in a unilateral move that has been described as a case of protectionism. According to the Financial Times, the legal director of gaming company Betfair, which also has a Maltese licence, said that Italy’s move had unified the British gambling heavyweights to take legal action, and have already specialist legal firm Freshfields.
The Lotteries and Gaming Authority said it will not be pressing for any direct action with the Italian state since there are “a number of unclear factors” which the Italy regulatory body, the AAMS, needs to clarify.
The authority said it will be taking steps to ensure Maltese licensees are not affected by the law. The authority said it has information that the whole list of websites has been blocked by an access list on ISP routers, although this was tested last week “and two huge ADSL networks in Italy went down”.
The LGA said it is carrying out a publicity campaign on Italian media and online gambling forums to encourage players to visit its website to access Maltese gaming sites.
The authority said it is possible that all Malta’s IP classes are blocked at Italy’s main internet exchange in Milan, through all Malta’s international IP traffic passes through. The LGA said it was aware that such an action is being contemplated. “For this kind of action there is no quick solution as we need to tunnel through a foreign proxy of VPN tunnel outside Malta. The LGA is seeking to lease a server in London Docklands or Vienna.”
The LGA said this kind of action would also affect non-gaming sites hosted in Malta, and that ISPs should advise their customers who may do business in Italy about this possible action.
The authority is now putting up a website with links to all licensees. Each link will go through a web anonymizer so the IP address is different from the original website. It instructed each ISP to make a number of IP addresses available as it is possible the anonymous proxy will also be blocked.
Licensees whose web pages are not hosted in Malta need to discuss their options with their ISP. The proxy must be ready by Thursday 23 February and details communicated to the authority.

mvella@mediatoday.com.mt



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