SBC News Meloni speeds up retail reforms to fix Italy's fractured gambling laws

Meloni speeds up retail reforms to fix Italy’s fractured gambling laws

A draft law is being fast-tracked across Italy’s constitutional ranks, to implement the long-awaited overhaul of the land-based gambling sector with the aim to standardise the sector’s laws and regulations.   

The mandate, which was approved by the cabinet of PM Giorgia Meloni in mid-March, has been put forward to Parliament as of 20 April and will require the opinion of 12 parliamentary committees before final approval.

Its sponsors seek to reorganise the gambling sector by applying constitutionally binding laws and uniform standards that must be applied across all Italian provinces.

The Government also plans to progressively concentrate land-based gaming venues (casinos, betting shops, arcades and bingo halls) “in safe and controlled venues” away from academic, youth and welfare institutions.   

Safer gambling leads the agenda of reforms, as businesses must ensure ‘the full protection of problem gamblers’. Measures outlined include a decrease in stake caps and winnings, providing mandatory continuous training for concessionaires, dealers, and operators, strengthening self-exclusion mechanisms, and providing minimum characteristics that halls and other gambling venues must possess.

Licensed operators were warned that the government will also adjust gaming taxes, concessionaire commissions, dealer and operator fees, as well as payout percentages.

Italian observers have noted that this will be the third attempt by a government to reform the gambling sector in the last eight years.

The first two attempts failed due to political issues or opposition from public opinion. Despite the impact of the long gaming outlet lockdown in 2020 and 2021, the Italian market is still growing and remains one of the biggest in Europe.

In 2022, gross gaming revenue (GGR) increased by 31% to 19.6bn euros, while tax revenues were 11.2bn euros, up 28%. The market’s success is mainly due to a regulatory framework that is considered best practice at the international level.

The gambling sector is recognised as an important contributor to Italy’s economy, in which the government is committed to ensuring that it is regulated effectively. As such, the Meloni Government aims to use the model based on state concession and police authorization, as it is now, and the Treasury and regions will search for a solution to stop the chaos existing in the territory with the retail gaming outlets.

The law will require the opinion of 12 parliamentary committees, including Finance, Constitutional Affairs, Productive Activities, and Labor, before final approval. Once the law is approved, the Government will have to draft the ensuing decrees.

The reforms are led by Treasury Deputy Minister Maurizio Leo, who cited optimism that the legislative decrees would be approved as early as next year, in 2024.

At a press conference in Rome, Leo was questioned on the ‘complex arrangements’ gambling operators have with regional governments. He replied that talks will take place through the state-regions body Conferenza Unificata which aims to harmonize the gaming rules on minimum distance and opening times throughout the country.

Despite the growth of online gaming, the retail sector will continue to play a central role, as demonstrated by post-pandemic business performance.

 According to a report issued by Bain&Company titled “Italian Gaming market: solid foundation and compelling value creation opportunities”, the market still has room for growth linked to the development of the online channel, but retail will continue to play a central role.

The consultancy firm noted that the market has an incidence of only 30% compared to mature markets such as the United Kingdom and the Nordics, which have a penetration of 70-80%.

Further transformations appear on Italian gambling’s horizon as Lottomatica SPA this week submitted its listing plans to the Milan EuroNext Borsa. initiating a €700m bookbuild to achieve an IPO valuation of + €2.7bn.

Gearing up for its IPO, Lottomatica consolidated its land-based betting agencies of Better, Intralot and GoldBet under its flagship brand which accounts for 33% of retail market share, competing against SNAI (Playtech), Sisal (Flutter Entertainment) and EuroBet (Entain Plc).  

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