On 8 February 2017, the Italian Competition Authority (the “ICA”) opened an in-depth investi-gation into two Italian companies (namely, Lottomatica Holding S.r.l. and Admiral Entertain-ment S.r.l., hereinafter the “Accused Companies”), both operators leaders in the betting sector.
The investigation started after the Accused Companies executed an agreement related to the acquisition of joint control of another Italian company (the “Agreement”), Big Admiral S.r.l. (“Big Admiral”). Big Admiral would be involved in the creation, development and management of a network of betting shops with new slot and video lotteries devices.
Although the Agreement at a first sight may have pro-competitive effects, the ICA held that in its view, it could violate Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
In particular, the ICA declared that its investigation would be aimed at verifying whether the commercial coordination, stemming from the Agreement, would be able to impede, restrict or jeopardize competition in the national market of betting devices.
The investigation continues and liability has not yet been determined. This is yet another example of an ICA investigation into collusive behaviour which have been increasing in recent years. Businesses should seek adequate legal advice before executing commercial agreements with present or potential competitors to avoid being implicated in such an investigation.