The Italian online gaming market is forced to change its traditional way of doing business going offline to survive, following the gambling advertising ban?
I had discussed in several instances about the Italian gambling advertising ban and the potential challenges against it. Since operators can offer their games only through remote channels of communication, the ban is preventing them from running their business since they cannot inform customers about their games.
The guidelines issued by AgCom seem to leave some options available when the usage of the sign and domain name is merely descriptive to indicate when it is possible to gamble. However, among the limited offline activities that online gaming operators can still perform, there is the possibility to contract players and sell vouchers to top-up their gaming accounts.
How can gambling operators contract Italian players offline?
In the contracting of players, tobacco shops, bars, and newspapers shops would have their customers executing the gaming account agreement functional to the opening of the gaming account and collect from them the copy of their IDs. The operator shall then receive such material according to the terms agreed between the parties.
It is essential that such shops only “support” players in the opening of the gaming accounts and do not open such accounts for them. Otherwise, the conduct might become illegal intermediation in the offering of gambling. Indeed, the best solution would be to have a PC where players can register themselves.
What are vouchers and when can they be sold?
Vouchers are just like top-up cards that can be purchased in cash or through electronic payment means at shops and then redeemed on the website. They are quite popular in Italy since players like cash and do not trust electronic payment means.
The main issue around vouchers is that they are anonymous payment means. Therefore, according to the guidelines on anti-money laundering of the Italian gaming authority, they can be used only by players that already sent the copy of their ID to the operator. This scenario makes such activity quite strongly linked with one of the previous paragraphs since shop assistants might also collect the copy of players’ IDs. This activity is essential as Italian law obliges operators to receive players’ IDs within 30 days from the opening of gaming accounts.
In any case, according to the guidelines on anti-money laundering referred above, vouchers are a high-risk payment means, and therefore they require the implementation of indicators of suspicious activities.
How can the industry live with the gambling advertising ban?
As previously discussed social gaming, the offline contracting of players and the sale of vouchers are part of the activities regulated by the license. Therefore, in my view, they cannot fall under the gambling advertising ban.
The additional question frequently addressed to me is whether shop assistants can distribute tablets to have players gambling on their website. There is an old decision of the Italian gambling authority prohibiting such practice since online operators have just a remote gaming license. But the scenario is uncertain, and I cannot exclude that it will change in the coming months.
There is already some flexibility from to the Italian regulator in allowing cash-outs offline from online gaming accounts at shops, and this additional level of freedom mentioned above might represent a substantial improvement for them, following the gambling advertising ban.
You can read on the same topic “Italian gambling advertising guidelines adopted, and now what?“.