AgiproNews Italian View: Can new faces commit to Italy’s hazardous playground

Amid a frantic Italian gambling scene, in which its incumbents make drastic adjustments to a new tax regime and tougher regulatory demands imposed by the Lega-5Star coalition government, this February Italy’s ADM published its updated online licensee registry.

In 2019, Italy’s online gambling marketplace will accommodate 66 licensed operators, as the Italian tax authority secures €13.2 million in licensing concessions, granted at €200,000 per registered applicant.

Nevertheless, the tax figure is below the €24 million (120 concessions), that the ADM had targeted in 2018, when it officially opened its licensing application window, following an almost two-year delay.

As anticipated all Italian legacy gambling incumbents – Lottomatica, Snaitech, Microgame, Sisal and Stanleybet secure licensing provisions, continuing their fierce rivalry against established international operators – bwin, William Hill, bet365 and Betfair.

The ADM has approved its licensee registry until 31 December 2022, however under current maligned conditions, it remains to be seen how many participants will return for business in three years’ time.

In particular, the movements of fresh incumbents such as low margin sportsbook Pinnacle, CIS markets leading online betting brand 1xBet and UK fast growth betting exchange Smarkets will be monitored closely.

During 2018, both Pinnacle and 1xBet stated their commitment in entering the Italian online betting marketplace, despite Lega-5Star passing the Dignity Decree’s social mandate, implementing an outright ban on all forms of gambling advertising/marketing.

Speaking to SBC, Paris Smith Chief Executive of Pinnacle stated that her company remained unfazed by changing Italian prospects, as the online sportsbook had proven its capacity to scale markets whilst maintaining low marketing costs and no bonus incentives.

Nevertheless, closing 2018, Italy’s populist coalition government would deliver its first ‘Budget Law’, showing no mercy to industry stakeholders, as tax increases across all gambling verticals were confirmed.

Whilst new incumbents had stated that the Dignity Decree advertising ban could be a survivable dynamic, an online sportsbook GGR duty increase from 22 to 24%, combined with a 20-to-25% GGR on online casino games will serve as a cold entree for new Italian actors.

Out of the 66 ADM licensed operators, the question arises as to how much money and resources new operators will commit to spending on a restrictive market with no promotional outreach.

Furthermore, operating in hazardous times, will Italy’s online gambling sector, simply become the domain of its legacy operators, mirroring retail trends.

Having waited for two-years to secure official ADM licenses, the changing dynamics of Italian politics and its constant bureaucracy may have led to foreign enterprises losing their appetite to invest in Italy, an all too familiar story for the nation’s business community.

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