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First Italian gambling advertising ban fine against a news website

The first fine for breach of the Italian gambling advertising ban against a news website containing a link to a gambling affiliate site was issued.

I already thoroughly discussed the Italian gambling advertising ban, its limits, and applicable fines (Read on the topic “Italian gambling advertising ban in place and now?“).  There have been the first fines so far for breach of the ban, but all of them had impacted Italian licensed online gambling operators.

The ban already applies to both the advertiser and the media channel through which it is communicated to the public (e.g., the website, TV, radio, etc.), but such broader scope of the prohibition had never been enforced.

The fine issued against a news website for breach of the Italian gambling advertising ban

AgCom, the Italian communications authority that has jurisdiction over the enforcement of the Italian gambling advertising ban, now issued the first fine against a news website, Il Giuco.net, a minor local news website, which published an advertising banner linking to the affiliate website, wisecasino.net., with a claim relating to the best Italian online casinos.

The main points challenged by AgCom are:

  1. the advertising banner was not merely informative but contained a call to action promoting the best online casinos;
  2. the affiliate website accessible through the banner contained links to several online casino websites; and
  3. even though the turnover of il Giuco.net was quite modest, AgCom has to enforce applicable laws and, therefore, at least apply the minimum fine.

In the light of the above, a € 50,000 fine was issued against il Giuco.net.

Is the fine a threat against gambling affiliate websites?

The question that I received from most of my clients pertains to why the fine was not issued against wisecasino.net.  Italian law on the gambling advertising ban provides for joint liability between the advertiser and the media channel.  As such, AgCom could definitely issue a fine also against wisecasino.net.

My personal impression was that they followed a practical approach given the difficulty to reach wisecasino.net.  But we cannot exclude that a similar proceeding is currently ongoing against the affiliate website since only final decisions are published.

Gambling affiliates fall within the Italian ban scope, and you can read on the topic the article “How affiliates are impacted by the Italian gambling advertising ban“.

How can the risk of fines be limited?

An interesting aspect of the AgCom decision relates to the challenge of the contents of the claim published on il Giuco.net.  The news website argued that it was merely informative, but AgCom replied, emphasizing the advertising contents to promote the affiliate site rather than convey information.

Such a stance underscores how a review of the contents of gambling and affiliate sites and claims published on third-party sites and channels of communication is pivotal to ensure that communication to the public on the features of offerings is still possible under the current regime.

It is quite time-consuming work and might lead to less effective claims.  But the risk of a fine amplifying in the current regulatory scenario.

You may find interesting the article “Top 3 best practices to handle the Italian gambling advertising ban” on the same topic.

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Giulio Coraggio

I am the head of the Italian Technology sector and the global head of the IoT and Gaming and Gambling groups at the world-leading law firm DLA Piper. IoT and artificial intelligence influencer and FinTech and blockchain expert, finding solutions to what's next for our clients' success.

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