Italy has heralded a change in gambling perception for a while now. Mainly driven by increased engagement and online sales, it was thought that a new government would only espouse these beliefs. But despite operators’ excitement, the recent elections have stalled plans to throw open the country to new casinos, as a split government now battles to be heard.
A turbulent government shift
The new Italian government seeks to change how casinos operate in the country. In March, 33% of Italians voted to elect an anti-establishment party to govern the country, leading to a potentially precarious time for the country’s expanding gambling market. There will now be a hung parliament in Italy that is likely to see the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and far-right Northern League working alongside one another to form a government. While other parties could join the Five Star Movement to create a hung parliament, experts say this is unlikely because it would be “against [their] nature”.
What this means for gambling
The Star Movement announced plans to ban all advertising for gambling and said that they would raise taxes on gambling. However, the party’s leader, Beppe Grillo, also said they would crack down on the Mafia, which could prove difficult if tough gambling laws are approved. Indeed, it is expected that illegal gambling offered by the Mafia would become increasingly popular if the government limits access to regulated gambling in the future. The Northern League has suggested leaving the euro, which could positively affect operating costs but would also likely cause significant macroeconomic issues for a period of time while the markets readjusted. With the strains with European counterpart Malta already apparent, this puts operators in limbo.
A leaked coalition agreement
A draft coalition agreement between the Five Star Movement and the Northern League, which was leaked to Italian media, sheds some light on what the gaming industry could expect if the agreement were to go ahead. Along with watered-down anti-EU policies, there were two sections on proposals to modify the gambling industry in the country. The proposals include a complete ban on AWP machines and VLT in retail stores, which would be a further blow to the industry after being told by the previous government that the number of machines would have to be reduced by 50%. In addition, the coalition agreement suggested that strong limitations should be imposed on repeated bets. However, the leaked document also hints at AWP/VLT being licensed for use in certain settings, which could alleviate the strain on the industry if the plans were to go ahead.
A recent document on the government’s website suggests: “Better regulation of the phenomenon is necessary through tools such as, for example, slot machine authorization – VLT only [to be available] in defined places (no bars, distributors, etc.), limitation on playing time, and increasing the minimum distance from sensitive places (schools and places where young people gather).”
Changing regulations for new service providers
In April, the Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) published a list of 45 companies that were applying for licenses to operate within Italy’s online gaming market. One applicant, in particular, could be negatively affected by these proposed changes to regulations: Sogno di Tolosa, which is seeking to expand its Betn1 brand for the Italian market. But with the brand currently owning a number of retail betting points in Italy, the new rules could affect its identity in the country.
The application cycle is over for this year. The ADM is due to announce whom it will grant licenses to by September 2018 and operators are holding their breath to find out more.
This announcement is likely to be the first step in setting a new scene for Italy’s gambling industry.