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Italy – Industry criticises Italy’s blanket ban on gambling advertising

By - 13 August 2018

The Italian Senate voted by a narrow majority on August 6 to ban gambling advertising with heavy penalties for non-compliance.

After some heated debate, the votes came in at 155 votes for and 125 votes against the decree meaning the new law will come into effect at the start of next year.

The author of the so-called Dignity Decree, Italian Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Economic Development, Labor, and Social Policies, Luigi Di Maio intervened in the discussion, referring to the protection of citizens with regard to the risk of gambling addiction.

He said: “Gambling is a social emergency that needed to be tackled immediately. We could no longer allow citizens to be encouraged to gamble, a vice that increasingly degenerates into a real disease: in Italy there are a million people at risk, including many children. I consider this rule an act of civilization that is implemented for the first time in the European Union. Finally, a record to be proud of.”

As Di Maio called for even more measures against the industry, Italian Prime Minister argued that legal gambling should continue to occupy at least a small place in Italy.

“A small part of these games must remain in public life in Italy, as its absence would otherwise lead to illegal gambling. We will fight this too,” the prime minister said.

Italy’s Serie A football league said it was following developments ‘with extreme concern.’ Over half of the clubs in Serie A currently have deals in place with gambling firms.

The league said: “The Lega Serie A is following with extreme worry the developments of the ‘Decreto Legge Dignita’ and the impact on Italian football of rules which ban advertising from betting firms. In highlighting the clear disparity compared to other countries in Europe and the world, where such bans don’t exist, and showing the negative consequences of such a measure, the Lega Serie A points out that in the 2017-18 season 12 top-flight clubs had a partnership agreement with companies from the betting sector.”

“Preventing companies in this sector from investing in promotion in our own country would cause competitive disadvantages to Italian clubs, diverting advertising budgets for our teams abroad,” it added. “In the Premier League, identified by everyone as the benchmark for its ability to generate resources, 45 per cent of clubs have a gaming firm as a shirt sponsor and in all the stadiums, on screens pitchside, there is advertising from betting companies. Prohibiting the firms from this sector to invest in advertising in our country would bring competitive disadvantages to Italian clubs, directing abroad advertising budgets meant for our teams.”

Genoa President Enrico Preziosi added: “It’s madness. It would be a huge blow for us and wouldn’t even resolve the problem it wants to face. They don’t understand the devastating effects there will be on football, where thousands of people work. Is this about reducing addiction? This would only encourage betting abroad, as well as getting around it illegally.It’s a senseless and populist proposal that would hurt a system like football, which already struggles to stand on its own two feet. It would be a blow, and wouldn’t even solve the problem you’re trying to address.”

LOGiCO, which represents operators including William Hill, Bet365, The Stars Group, said: “A ban will push more consumers to unregulated websites that do not protect them. Without advertising, black market gambling will only increase. It will increase because Italian consumers will not be informed or directed to those websites that are licensed in Italy and away from those that are not.”

Nick Jones of news service Poker Industry PRO said: “Italy has set a record in Europe as the first country to abolish gambling advertising. This will have a huge impact on Italian news websites, portals, operators, and sports as a whole. The ban applies on all forms of advertising of gambling products in which a player can win money directly or indirectly, across all media outlets, including television, radio, billboards, and online, as well as during sporting, cultural, and entertainment events. It’s hard to see how this is not great news for unlicensed/black market online operators. Already they’re reporting seeing improvements to their google position following AdWords changes.”

In October 2015, a government report claimed that Italy had 1.3m problem gamblers. In 2016, Anacapri became the first region in Italy to ban slot machines.

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