Italy has been in the grip of political upheaval for the better part of the year with the fears that the country could be poised to leave the E.U. dominating debate and clouding the minds of decision-makers in Rome. And even though the Country’s president vetoed the attempted appointment of an anti-E.U. a politician as the country’s finance minister in May, it’s fair to say the two largest parties, the right-wing League and the left-leaning 5-Star Movement have pretty much left the state in political limbo perhaps up to the scheduled elections next year.
The same can also be said of the Italian gambling seen much of which has been in a form of confusion since the state started legalizing remote gambling in the early 2000s.
The Deregulation had Initially Brought Smiles
It all started with celebrations back then when sportsbook and horse betting were allowed together with computer collections. This was the milestone which paved the way for the country’s first experimentation in internet gambling. But things have slowly been unravelling over the last couple of years because of increased monitoring and decrees which seem hell-bent on punishing online gaming providers.
The latest in a series of worrying actions by the state has been the passage of the so-called ‘dignity decree,’ and banning gambling advertisements for example. Actions like this were effective but also declarations of war for offshoring gambling, leaving the industry and thousands of gaming-related jobs hanging precariously.
The architect of the legislation Luigi Di Maio, deputy prime minister of Labor in the governing coalition. He is also an anti-establishment and against online gambling.
Like other past decrees, the declaration has elicited strong reactions from across the sector with the EGBA (European Gaming & Betting Association) saying such a total ban would be counterproductive. The association, which represents the interests of gaming companies across Europe said that betting operators bring about €120m to Italian sports by sponsoring teams including in the popular Serie A.
Other developments which have painted Italy as becoming less tolerant to online betting includes several mayors outlawing some types of gaming. For example, the small town of Anacapri – with just over 6,000 residents – was the first to proclaim slot machines illegal in the nation, back in 2016. Also, the national gaming regulator, the Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) has become more proactive in the enforcement of the various gambling related regulations as enacted by parliament.
Tough Laws Make Italy Tricky
On paper, online betting is perfectly legal in the country. But in real sense, only a few online casinos can manage to open operations in Italy.
There are no bitcoin casino operations from within the country. That’s because the licensing conditions are very tough. Requirements such as an operator to have at least 1.5M Euros ($1.75m) in average turnover for the last two years is not easy to meet for many online casinos. On top of the nearly impossible revenue requirement, an applicant must post a security bond of a similar amount when applying for an ADM license.
Not to mention that an application must have a stringent technical certification issued by an ADM-qualified entity guaranteeing that they have the technology, expertise, gaming infrastructure, and all essential resources as per ADM’s technical standards.
And it doesn’t even end there: The licenses expire and have to be renewed at a cost of $370,000. Biannual concession fees amount to $58,000 payable not to forget that the operator has to hand over a certain percentage of his six-month gaming turnover to the authorities.
Online casinos must also maintain an official anti-money laundering database, Archivio Unico Informatico (AUI) as per the Bank of Italy AML regulations. This is quite contradictory to what is happening in other states such as the United Kingdom where the environment has been made even friendlier making it an attractive destination for numerous Bitcoin casinos.
Okay, it’s true that quite a number of brick-and-mortar casinos have operations around the state including internet gambling establishments but it’s generally a tough call for many.
The Gamble is Not Paying off
The government has hoped that relaxing the regulations would help achieve civilization and boost its coffers. It had also better on the modified legislation to help reduce addictive gambling in addition to undercutting the headache that’s the country’s illegal gambling market. But the success has not been as profound as it had hoped.
Organized crime, Italy’s most annoying economic and social challenge hasn’t gone away neither has the mob. The revenues have only risen marginally despite that permitted providers have consistently been making due remittances to the state.
In some cases, the results are very much the opposite. We now have more Italians addicted to gambling than in other time in history despite that the economy has been experiencing a lot of uncertainty in the recent past. Further, due to the ensuing restrictions, some online casinos which had been quick to launch operations such as Paddy Power have left the market because the revenues only increase when the servers are from other countries due to fewer tax stringencies.
Fortunately, players were not left high and dry thanks to the continued presence of online Bitcoin casinos such as Just-Dice and Bitroulette. These sites may not have servers in Italy but feature an Italian language option.
In Conclusion: Bitcoin and the Future of Italy
A lot of what’s happening in Italy has been blamed on political volatility and may be the looming elections may help bring a clearer picture of how the gaming arena (and the economy in whole) will be shaping up. But as of now, the tug of war continues between the leaders making it harder to predict the direction that the industry will take going forward.
The fact that international operators who run gaming services in Italy have continued to thrive has, however, not escaped the eyes of market watchers. And with the current blanket ban on betting adverts, it won’t be surprising to see them increasing their market share. Already, Italian-licensed operators are feeling the heat as a result of the new government’s approach and have equated the ad ban to delivering online gaming to unauthorized operators.
It’s also notable that the government is adopting such radicalized measures in spite of the recent enactment of the much-praised GDPR legislation. The data privacy law had forced many of the Italian operators to improve their betting systems to better protect players and their privacy. This is a step which makes the industry more orderly.
Italy gambling fields are changing as frequently as the country’s governments with a lot happening since the early 2000s when the nation first decided to promote the gambling industry. At first, it was all joy and smiles but lately, those concerned aren’t sure whether to be happy or sad. On one hand, there are new decrees such as the so-called ‘dignity decree’ which restricts all gaming promotions and severely limiting the ability of local licensed providers to reach the market.
On the other hand, the government says that it is all for the good of everyone involved and that it won’t hesitate to come up with such laws to normalize the industry. Yet, other nations, including Malta, have set the gaming industry on free gaming grounds and look set for exponential growth in the days ahead.
The good thing is that the online betting remains legal meaning players can continue enjoying their favourite games at their chosen casinos even as the state and providers continue the blame game. Otherwise, since there’s no telling what the future holds, a game of hoping and waiting is happening in Rome.