It’s a very exciting time in the Italian gambling market with the recent and upcoming gaming law changes that, accompanied by the new online licences, might lead to an earthquake in the market.
The new year started with a new tax regime for sports betting and poker tournaments. Both games switched from a turnover based tax regime to a GGR tax regime. In particular, sports betting is now benefiting from an 18% GGR tax regime in retail and a 22% GGR tax regime in relation to online sports betting.
Sports betting fully freed
Such changes occurred a few months before the completion of the full liberalisation of the sports betting market. Operators are no longer dependent on the schedule of bets/events published by the regulator, but are free to provide their own offering. The competition in the Italian sports betting market is now not just focused on the offering the best odds anymore, but operators can compete also on the variety of types of bets and events just as they do on the dot.com market.
Also, a big step forward towards a further liberalisation has been just performed in the form of bets on virtual events. This new sector is a success story in the Italian retail market and the additional flexibility introduced by the recent regulations will make it even more interesting online.
But the upcoming gaming law changes are not over. Bingo operators might also be celebrating by the beginning of the new year with a GGR 20% tax regime, which will enter into effect from 1 January 2017 and more flexible regulations that are now being approved by the Italian gambling regulator.
Gaming advertising is better than expected
Last year, major concerns centred around gambling advertising regulations, with a minority within the Italian Parliament calling for a total ban of gambling.
However, at the end of last year, new gambling advertising regulations were adopted introducing principles that are in line with rules already provided by self-regulatory codes and that were less restrictive than feared.
Gambling advertising – as clarified in the recent instructions from the Ministry of Finance – was prohibited on generalist channels (i.e. the first 9 channels of Italian TV) from 7am to 10pm. More favourably, on any other channel the only time restriction relates to a ban on adverts 30 minutes before and after TV programs dedicated to minors.
Furthermore, despite such regulations, no enforcement has taken place and no sanctions have been issued so far and the advertising self-regulatory authority remains the body that is more active in policing gambling advertisements.
The first half of the year saw a major action by the Italian police against the unlicensed market. This action, followed by the arrests of last year, might convince some operators to obtain an Italian online gaming licence.
And the timing is favourable since by the end of the year, the Italian gaming regulator is expected to award 15,000 betting shop and corner shop licenses and 120 online gaming licenses.
Given that tenders for Italian gaming licenses usually take place every three or four years, the situation is of “now or never” for operators that don’t want to miss the opportunity of the Italian market.
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