A Blanket Ban on Gambling Ads in Italy

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Italy’s brand-new populist and anti-gambling government has imposed a blanket ban on gambling advertising in the country. Many expect this will lead to a flood of issues for the country’s gambling businesses.

Over the past several months, the debate surrounding the regulation of gambling advertising in Italy has been at the forefront of televised debates and the wider national media. It has now escalated into a direct conflict between politicians and those with business interests in the gambling industry, as details of the ban have gradually been announced.

Public disagreements

In the latest public clash on the subject, Niklas Lindahl, Italy managing director of LeoVegas, and the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio spoke to local media outlets to share their differing opinions on the ban’s potential effectiveness. Their differing views eventually spilled out onto social media.

Minister Di Maio was responsible for suggesting the advertising ban, which could result in a complete shakeup in the country’s gambling industry. The deputy prime minister is the leader of the populist Five Star Movement, the party that suggested earlier this year that strict rules on gambling advertising would help to lower the numbers of people developing a gambling addiction.

What will the ban include?

The prohibition applies to all forms of advertising for real-money gambling and betting, meaning that these adverts are now banned from all media outlets in the country. Beyond this, the ban covers all sponsorship deals, so no cultural or artistic events can feature any items promoting gaming or betting companies. The ban even includes sporting events and teams, which could come as a massive blow to football clubs in particular.

However, a last-minute compromise was made, whereby any agreements already in place may still be honored. This has led to some skeptics thinking that there may be some ability to negotiate the terms of the ban to find a solution that will have a slightly less negative impact on both sponsors and the teams or events they support.

A disconnect between government and industry

The director of LeoVegas wrote an open letter to Minister Di Maio urging politicians to change their minds, stating that an absolute ban would result in the opposite of the desired result. The government’s theory is based on the fact that banning advertising would reduce the uptake of gaming by vulnerable members of the Italian public and, in the longer term, would result in reducing the number of people addicted to gambling.

Figures show that approximately 1 million Italians are addicted to gambling out of the country’s 60 million population. Di Maio says that aggressive advertising across multiple platforms results in people betting or gambling excessive amounts of money. Lindahl argued that banning advertising in such a way would push addicts towards black market gaming as opposed to containing it on regulated platforms and that ultimately these black market companies will be operating more aggressive advertising to lure in vulnerable players.

A question of constitutionality

Lindahl has also argued that the full ban on gambling advertising could be unconstitutional, given that the ability to advertise in the country is granted when a company becomes licensed there and the ban would therefore fall foul of the freedom of enterprise guaranteed by the Italian Constitution. This could lead to the government breaching these pre-made agreements, a prospect that will need to be carefully examined before the ban is implemented.

Both parties agree that gambling addiction is an issue that needs to be tackled, but approaches differ significantly. Minister Di Maio gave the example of the ban on advertising tobacco products and the effect of that on the numbers of smokers in the country (Lindahl disputed these figures). The government has approved the ban, and it is thought the specific terms will be negotiated over time, with adjustments already being approved just before the legislation was presented to the government. It is hoped that both the government and operators will find a way to achieve their shared goal of managing gambling addiction in the country.