Italian Parliament Passes Ban on Gambling Ads

Football in an unzipped bag with Italian flag print

Italy had a General Election in March. It eventually resulted in an uneasy coalition between the center-right group led by Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement.

How long the coalition will last is anyone’s guess. But one thing is certain: The online sports betting companies must be hoping and praying for the coalition to end because the Italian Parliament has just passed the proposal to ban gambling advertising by 155 votes to 125.

In June, Luigi Di Maio, now one of Italy’s deputy prime ministers, proposed his “Dignity Decree.” This limited fixed-term contracts in Italian employment, increased indemnities for unfair dismissal, and addressed the relocation of international businesses outside Italy. It also contained some rather draconian proposals related to the advertising of gambling, which were immediately the subject of widespread lobbying from the gambling companies and casino operators.

Despite this, the parliament passed the proposal this week. Di Maio described it as “the first decree for decades which hasn’t been dictated by lobbies and vested interests. Finally, ordinary people have scored a point.”

Under the new regulations, it will now be illegal to advertise gambling products and services on the internet, radio, or TV, although the state-run national lottery will be exempt from the ban.

A ban on sponsorship

Sports sponsorships with gambling companies will also be prohibited. That ban will come into effect on January 1, 2019. Companies that have existing contracts to fulfill – for example, football teams with shirt sponsorships with online betting companies – will be given until June 30, 2019. This will present a lot of clubs and a lot of betting companies with problems. As an example, Betway entered a three-year sponsorship deal with AS Roma last month.

Google and Facebook have also said that they will be making changes to try and comply with the Dignity Decree. Google’s, for example, will do its best to keep gambling companies from appearing at the top of search results.

The law of unintended consequences?

But this wouldn’t the first time government action has had exactly the opposite effect to that which was intended.

There will be plenty of unlicensed and less ethical companies registered overseas who will be only too willing to fill the void created by the Dignity Decree. They will not afford problem gamblers the same level of protection as the established sports betting companies. A year down the line, the Dignity Decree may not look like such a good idea, even to Luigi Di Maio.