The new Italian gaming advertising rules leave a considerable uncertainty accompanied by a recent strict approach by the self-regulatory advertising authority.
I briefly touched the matter in a previous blog post relating to the main gaming changes introduced by the Italian budget law. The evolution of Italian gambling advertising regulations has been quite bizarre.
General gambling advertising rules had already been introduced in 2012 with the so called Balduzzi decree and more recently the Italian self-regulatory authority had even introduced stricter rules for advertisements relating to games with cash winnings. But the Parliament after having discussed about the introduction of a potential full ban of gambling advertising now decided to put in place new gaming advertising rules to operate in addition to the above and whose main terms are the following:
Prohibited gaming advertising contents
The law refers to the principles set out in the the Recommendation 2014/478/CE of the Commission of 14 July 2014 that shall be clarified in a decree of the Ministry of Finance. But it also refers to specific contents that are prohibited such as advertising that encourages excessive or uncontrolled gaming, denies that gaming can be risky and fails to make explicit the modalities and the conditions for the exploitation of incentives or bonuses.
And especially bonuses have been the subject of the last major disputes faced by gaming operators before the self-regulatory advertising authority. There is no doubt that the authority is adopting a very conservative approach on gambling advertising
and this is why we recently changed our strategy.
After some disappointment on the position taken by the authority, we are now following for our clients a different approach which gained the satisfaction of both our clients and the authority itself. And given the broad scope of the new provisions, it is likely that this new approach might be suitable also to check compliance with the newly adopted gaming advertising regulations.
Restrictions on time slots
Advertising of games with cash winnings will be prohibited during “generic programs” from 7 am to 10 pm. The terminology used in the law with the reference to “generic programs” leaves uncertain the exact scope of the prohibition.
The risk is that any program broadcast on generic channels (i.e. the first 8 channels of Italian TVs) will be considered a generic program which would be a solution quite negative for bingo operators for instance as their target customers mainly watch generic channels. A decree of the Ministry of Finance might clarify the matter, but at the moment operators are following different approaches on the matter.
On the other hand, no time restrictions certainly apply to non-generic channels (e.g. sports and news channels), save for the prohibition to advertise 30 minutes before and after programs addressed to minors.
Sanctions and challenging procedure
A common comment from our clients is that
“Italians love making things complicated…“
and this might true in relation to gaming advertising regulations. Indeed, while the authority in charge of enforcing the provisions of the Balduzzi decree will remain the gaming regulator, AAMS, while the new gaming advertising provisions will be enforced by the Communications Authority, AgCom.
AgCom never dealt with gaming related matters and it will be interesting to see their position on the matter especially because fines between € 100,000 and € 500,000 can be issued for breach of the above mentioned provisions against the broadcaster, the operator and the entity performing the advertisement.