AGCOM lays out stark reality of Italian advertising ban

Italy’s media and advertising regulatory body has published its long-awaited guidance on Italian gambling advertising, bringing transparency to the approved ‘Dignity Decree’ mandate installed by the Lega-5Star coalition government.

Italian betting stakeholders have waited a year for AGCOM to publish its regulatory guidance on the Dignity Decree, which from 14 July 2019 will implement an outright blanket ban on gambling/betting advertising.

The Lega-5Star government had urged AGCOM to introduce its ‘Article 9’ Dignity Decree guidelines by the start of the year. However, following an appeal by Serie A governance, the regulator agreed that it could not approve guidance on an ‘incomplete mandate’.

This allowed Italian sports clubs a further concession to fulfil any existing betting, gambling sponsorship or marketing agreements up to July 2019.

Last Friday, AGCOM published its guidelines, presented to stakeholders as ‘interpretative clarifications’ for ‘the orientation of licensed sector operators on the correct application of article 9 of the Dignity Decree’.

In its update, AGCOM reaffirms that it has drafted its guidelines taking into account the contrasts between licensed and illegal gambling operators targeting Italian consumers.

Bringing legislative clarity to article 9 of Decree, AGCOM confirms the outright ban on advertising, sponsorships, marketing and commercial communications promoting betting/gambling operators and their services.

From 14 July, all Italian media firms will not be allowed to display advertising/marketing communications which feature gambling-led prizes, incentives, events, markets or products.

The ban further extends to the use of editorial/advertorial services, product placements and referrals carried out by ‘influencers’.

The Decree’s tough stance sees AGCOM limit betting advertising to ‘informative quotas’ – referred to as adverts promoting ‘information on a comparative basis’, which should allow incumbents to promote standard product provisions such as odds, % of winning games and game/market details.

Nevertheless, AGCOM strictly underlines that operators cannot be deemed to promote ‘any incentives to register or play’.

With regards to on-site advertising and promotional communications, AGCOM states that operators will be allowed to promote ‘the specifics of products and services’  which include odds, jackpots, winning %, bonuses, game details and player rewards – it says that these communications will be permitted in order to ‘allow consumers to make informed choices’.

Further digital guidance sees AGCOM underline that there will be no restrictions on site domains and that the regulator will not prohibit or restrict the use of search engines for gambling domains or terms.

At a retail level, AGCOM will permit the advertising of in-store betting/gambling services within their licensed betting premises, a move praised by the Italian Federation of Tobacconists.

Additional guidance sees AGCOM allow for B2B advertising communications to be permitted within specialist business-led publications. The regulator will allow betting/gambling companies to promote social/charitable initiatives, however, social or civic campaigns will not be allowed to show betting company details.

Moving forward, AGCOM details that it will support the supervising of the Italian betting advertising/marketing as a legislative advisor to Italy’s Customs and Monopolies Agency – ADM, the lead body tasked with overseeing a new dawn for Italian gambling.

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