Italian Gambling Minister Appointed With Reform Agenda

September 30, 2021
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The new man in charge of Italian gambling policy comes with his own idea of what good regulation looks like, but inherits a sector in need of drastic reform.

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The new man in charge of Italian gambling policy comes with his own idea of what good regulation looks like, but inherits a sector in need of drastic reform.

Federico Freni has officially been chosen to succeed Claudio Durigon as the undersecretary of the Treasury, after Durigon was forced to resign for making statements in support of the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini.

Freni was backed in his bid for the job by populist party Lega and is a lawyer in Rome considered to have good knowledge of gambling industry issues.

He had been working in Durigon’s office as legal counsel before the disgraced politician was ousted and, as part of that job, had been in contact with gambling companies and trade groups to discuss legislative reforms earlier this year.

Freni’s role does not currently include oversight of gambling policy, with the minister of the economy yet to officially delegate the role to him, but sources at the Ministry of Finance have told VIXIO GamblingCompliance that he is expected to take full oversight of the sector in the near future.

There is political agreement that Italy’s gambling laws are in need of reform, a position bolstered by figures published by regulator the Agency of Customers and Monopolies (ADM).

After 165 days of lockdown in 2020, Italian gambling’s total gross gaming revenues (GGR) across land-based and online declined by 33 percent to €12.bn, as total turnover fell by 17 percent to €75bn.

Italian gambling’s retail sector recorded a 50 percent drop in GGR across retail betting (-48 percent), bingo (-59 percent), slots-VLTs (-53 percent), and horseracing (-52 percent), as operators were forced to obey the strictest lockdown orders in Europe.

A confusing patchwork of regional laws is also motivating a desire for reform.

Industry stakeholders should already have some clues about how the new minister will seek to reorganise the Italian market.

Speaking to an online conference in July, before his promotion, Freni said that the Ministry of Finance was working on a draft bill to set up a much-awaited decree to offer a completely reorganised regulatory system before 2022.

Although the resignation of Durigon calls that timeline into question.

“We want to create updated, stable and uniform gambling regulations. This is the only way to get the industry out of this uncertain limbo,” Freni explained during a talk at the SBC Digital conference.

He said that priorities for the government included increasing tax revenue and eliminating illegal gambling.
But he also appeared to reach out to the industry.

“We want to understand what the gambling world wants. Regulation in 2021 is not just regulating what exists now but also future developments. Regulation that doesn't think of the future is no good,” he said.

But more urgently than widespread change, Italy is due to pass its annual Budget legislation, with a number of gambling issues on the agenda.

The most pressing is the extension of betting concessions, with many licences set to expire at the end of March, 2022.

Licences of for operating gaming machines also expire in April 2022 and online approvals must all be extended at least for one or two years to allow government, parliament and the Italian regions to set up a new gaming regime.

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