Italian betting stakeholders faced an eventful month in April with lotto operator LottoLand announcing its acquisition of Giochi24, one of Italy’s most popular online games sites, and leading tech provider Playtech Plc growing its market share by acquiring SNAITECH technologies and its retail betting outlets for €850m ($1bn/£739m).
A rapidly evolving market
In the first quarter of 2018, Italy has demonstrated its strength in both local and worldwide spaces. This comes ahead of the release of updated betting-related policies that have been on the horizon for a while. In 2006, the European Commission investigated gambling rules in Italy and, after the Commission’s findings, certain previously-banned types of gambling were legalized, with legislation being updated in 2007.
Last year, Italian gambling saw a big increase in popularity, with around 17 million people participating in games once or more throughout the year, compared to approximately 10 million people in 2014. In part due to this rapid growth, some large world-wide names had their Italian licenses approved by the Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM). Indeed, Bet365, PokerStars, and Videoslots all passed the initial set of tests set out by the regulator. Some 80 international online gambling companies have since successfully passed the initial investigations by the ADM, whilst another 45 firms have extended their licenses to 2022 after their expiry in 2016. Italy will have over 170 approved licenses if the latest applicants receive final approval. But, while growth is encouraged, it is clear that a review of the current legislation could be helpful for all parties.
Current regulations in Italy
Italian industry insiders expect that the government will announce a set of new policies for betting, with a strong emphasis on the creation of a tighter operational code for the industry. It is expected that the new policies will set out clear regulations for market disputes and operator in-play cash-out systems among others to protect the trade and consumers alike. The change in Italy’s government has led many market leaders to anticipate significant updates to the current legislation.
It is thought that the new policies may encourage new physical casinos by offering more licenses, as there are currently only four licensed casinos in Italy (a lasting effect of the Mussolini government). Slot machines and video lotteries are currently also heavily regulated, with a specific list of licensed machines available for consumers. These machines must be connected to a central system, thus allowing the government significant control over this lucrative market. These rules, however, are currently set to become stricter, with around half of the machines currently on the market being withdrawn throughout 2018. However, this may change.
The impact of IRL gaming regulations
With the online market in Italy growing so rapidly, it is understandable that people are hoping that existing policies will be reviewed in the coming months. The country’s stringent in-person gambling rules have led to a large number of underage users turning to online gaming in recent years as it is less regulated, though this number is now slowly falling. Even now, it remains an issue that many Italians hope will be addressed by new policies.
With the recent large acquisition by LottoLand, people are also hoping that clearer anti-money laundering policies will be introduced for online gambling in the country. The current regulations require enhanced anti-money laundering checks to be carried out for any transaction over the value of €2,000 ($2,300/£1,699) but new policies could lower that figure. With the Italian market thriving as it is, however, it seems unlikely that these new policies will greatly slow down the growth of the online gaming market in the country.