Italy Sees Resurgence in Sports Betting Revenues in February

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Italy posted strong results for sports betting revenues in February 2019, with an increase of more than 29% year on year.

30-second summary:

  • Italy saw a strong increase in sports betting revenues in February, a year on year increase of 29%
  • Online poker revenues were poor for the period amid calls for an alliance with other countries
  • Gambling operators are leaving the space due to the advertising ban and rising tax rates

A lot of people are keeping a close eye on the monthly results of Italy’s gambling sector. The industry has experienced plenty of ups and downs over the past 12 months. Stakeholders want to see if it is still worth their while being part of the sector in Italy.

Italy’s February sports betting results

Sports betting revenues improved significantly in comparison with a poor January. More than €1bn ($1.12bn) was wagered on sports during February. The latest figures come from the Agenzia della Dogane e dei Monopli (ADM), the regulator for the gambling industry in Italy.

Operators of sportsbooks saw an increase in their revenues of 29% in comparison with February 2018. It was also a similar increase to the January 2019 figures. It is widely considered that the extension of the Serie A football winter break was a significant reason behind January’s poor performance.

The majority of the revenue was on the retail side, which saw revenues of €90m ($101m) – a 24.4% increase. The online sportsbooks saw over €69m ($77m) in revenues, which was a 35.8% increase.

The best performing retail sportsbook was Intralot/Goldbet, whose share of the market is more than 24%. In the online rankings, Bet365 led the way with a 16.2% market share, closely in front of SKS365.

Other gambling results

Online poker did not work out too well for operators in February. Total revenues were only €12.2m. This decrease put gas on the fire to try and organize an international poker pool.

This would pool together online poker players from the likes of Italy, Spain, Portugal and France. Common regulations would be put into place, as well as better protection for players and better offers. However, it seems that the Italian government does not support such an alliance.

The government is happy with the changes it has made to the tax rates for various forms of gambling. Its January tax intake from gambling rose by 9.5% up to €1.36bn ($1.5bn). For 2018, there was an increase of almost 4% in the total direct tax revenue, bypassing the €14bn ($15.7bn) mark.

February saw the issuance of 70 renewal licenses for online gambling platforms. Initially, this figure was expected to be closer to 120 license renewals. However, many operators are exiting the Italian market due to the government’s stance.

Government’s anti-gambling approach

The Italian coalition government came to power in early 2018. Straight away it set upon a path of reining in the gambling sector, which it views as a scourge on Italian society.

One of its first moves was to ban all forms of gambling advertising, including gambling companies sponsoring teams and events. This was a major blow for the teams, which often rely heavily on such sponsorship. Many teams fear that they will now struggle financially and may not be able to meet the UEFA financial fair play rules.

The ban on gambling advertising came into effect on January 1, 2019. The ban on gambling company sponsorship does not kick in until the summer. The Italian government has been pushing the European Commission to introduce similar rules across the continent.

Some operators are fighting back against this ban. Swedish gambling platform LeoVegas, for example, is pursuing legal action on the matter. It hopes the European courts will deem the ban to be unjust. 

A number of tax hikes are also thrown into the mix. Online casino taxes are rising to 25% from 20%. The government is planning on earning an additional €51m ($57m) through this move.

The tax rate for online sports betting will increase by 2% up to 24%. There is also a 2% rise in the taxes for retail sports betting revenue. Operators are going to have to bear the brunt of these costs themselves, which could end up being close to €30m ($34m) each year.

The government may also increase the tax rates for video lottery terminals and slot machines. As a result of the ban on advertising and these tax rates, more operators could very well exit the Italian market in the near future.