Italy plans tender for 329 horse race betting concessions by end-2008

Milan (Thomson Financial) – The Italian government plans to launch by end-2008 a public tender for 329 horse race betting concessions, which were subject of a lengthy EU dispute, according to a report on the Agipronews internet site, citing economy ministry sources.

Last September, Italy lost a European Court of Justice ruling over renewal of the concessions for the 2000-2005 period because it had not handed them out after a public tender, the report says.

In 2007, the concessions were worth 1.2 bln eur in bets, or about 59 pct of the overall horse-race betting market, it said.

In Jan, the government agreed with the European Commission to organise an EU-wide tender, subject to updated Italian rules aimed at spreading betting outlets on a fairer geographical basis, the news site said.

Snai SpA (Milan: SNA.MI – news) currently runs 298 of the outlets and Sisal 31, it said.

Last year, Lottomatica SpA (Milan: LTO.MI – news) entered the sports betting market, acquiring 1,644 licences after a public tender, including 500 for horse race betting.

Government sources said this tender can go ahead under auspices of the state monopoly organisation despite the political crisis restricting the outgoing government to ordinary business.