Italian Gambling Sector in Good Health despite Ad Ban

Leaning tower of Pisa

Despite concerns about the new coalition government’s stance on gambling, there are strong indicators that the gambling sector in Italy is in good health. The amount wagered on this year’s FIFA World Cup significantly surpassed the previous record, even though the Italian team was not in the tournament. There has also been a £236m ($310m) acquisition by Gamenet of Goldbet, cementing Gamenet’s position in the Italian market.

The new government’s stance

It has been a turbulent few months for Italian politics since the general election that brought a new coalition into power. The coalition has taken a very anti-gambling stance despite the growth of the sector in recent years. This coalition is made up of the Five Star Movement, which is an anti-establishment party, and the Northern League, a far-right party.

The new government quickly introduced a ban on gambling-related ads and also plans to increase taxes on the gambling sector. As part of the new blanket ban on gambling ads, organizations would not be allowed to have betting sponsorships, which could lead to financial problems for a lot of teams.

Coalition members believe that problem gambling is a serious scourge in their country and that the gambling sector does more harm than good.

There will probably be a lot of resistance going forward because many political powers have business interests in the gambling sector. The coalition has also discussed leaving the euro, which could have more serious consequences for the gambling sector, so there is a lot of uncertainty in the region at present.

World Cup record

Despite these setbacks, the level of gambling appears to be growing. Figures have been released showing the amount of money wagered during the recent World Cup. A new record of $544m (£414m) was wagered by Italian bettors during the tournament, even though the Italian team didn’t qualify.

This was the first time in about 60 years that Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup. Nevertheless, the amount wagered smashed the previous record of £240m ($316m), which was set during the 2014 World Cup in South Africa.

A key reason for this growth is the increased number of legal sports betting establishments that were created after the 2015 and 2016 Stability Law for tax amnesties, which allowed for more betting shops to be opened.

There had been some forecasts that the money wagered on the event would be down because of lack of interest due to the absence of the national team, but this clearly wasn’t the case.

Major market acquisition

Under a binding agreement, Italy’s major gambling group, Gruppo Gamenet SPA, will acquire a 100% stake in the Goldbet betting operation. The deal is worth upward of £240m ($316m).

Goldbet’s 990 betting shops in Italy will be taken over by Gamenet, along with the company’s digital property.

Goldbet was the largest betting operator in the country. The company’s EBITDA for 2017 was £35.6m ($46.8m), and its corporate net earnings were around £20.5m ($27m).

Talking about this acquisition, governance at Gamenet said that this move means that the company can “assume the leading position within Italy’s multi-concession gambling sector, targeting further corporate growth within the betting.”

The total Gamenet portfolio will increase to around 1,700 betting locations, which would be the biggest retail betting network in the country.

The Goldbet Group appears to be happy with this acquisition, telling investors that the deal cements its position as the number one retail sports bookmaker in the country and that the company will be better equipped to deal with the rapidly changing dynamics of Italy’s gambling sector, especially with the new government in place.

Talking about the potential of this deal, Goldbet Group CEO Paola Bausano said: “This transaction represents a major opportunity for the two companies and will allow us to exploit the synergies and know-how of both companies.”

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