Italy Pushes Forward Retail Reorganisation After EU Ruling

April 19, 2023
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Under the cloud of a Court of Justice of the European Union ruling, Italy is attempting to finally complete the controversial remodelling of its multi-billion euro land-based sector.

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Under the cloud of a Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling, Italy is attempting to finally complete the controversial remodelling of its multi-billion euro land-based sector.

After years of regional conflict and delays, the recently elected Italian government is trying to conclude the ongoing effort to reorganise Italy’s 60,000 gambling outlets.

The changes would come via a national tax law, the text of which was approved by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni in mid-March and assigned to the Finance Committee in the Chamber of Deputies in the past few days. Discussions on the bill in parliament will start on April 20.

The law, which will reform all general Italian tax duties, requires the opinion of 12 other parliamentary committees, including those covering constitutional affairs and labour.

Sources in Rome said the process could be concluded by September, but once the law is approved executive decrees will take another 12-24 months to be issued.

Its effects on Italy’s land-based gambling sector will base gambling venue approvals on a state concession model. It will also attempt to clear up the current diversity of distance rules that affect outlets across the country.

Venues are supposed to be located at least between 200m and 500m away from “sensitive” locations such as schools and hospitals, depending on local regulations.

The new law would establish uniform rules, including on distance, for the entire country.

The reorganisation of Italy’s gambling retail network, which includes around 60,000 dedicated and non-dedicated shops, will be conducted following “criteria of specialisation and progressive concentration of the gaming operations in safe and controlled venues”, said the government.

Officials also said they will target the “gradual transition to a new kind of remotely controlled slot machine”, to increase player safety.

Maximum stakes and winnings are set to be decreased, concession holders and shop operators will have to undergo mandatory player protection training and self-exclusion is to be strengthened.

A higher set of standards for venues permitted to offer gambling will be enshrined and a ban on betting on underage sporting competitions will be introduced, according to the draft law.

The government will also provide for the adjustment of gaming taxes, concessionaire commissions and shop dealer and operator fees, as well as payout percentages. According to the draft law, “the tax levy must be guaranteed for the entire duration of concessions awarded through public tenders”.

The new national plan builds on the concession extensions for online gambling, gaming machines, betting and bingo until December 31, 2024.

But Italy’s government is under pressure to reform the system, after the entire concept of concessions extensions was called into question by a recent CJEU ruling (n. C 517/20).

Austrian sports-betting operator Aleabet had asked gambling regulator ADM to enter the Italian market, but was rebuffed and subsequently became the target of a criminal investigation for offering betting in Italy without a licence.

Italy awards licences during set concession windows, but has on several occasions opted to extend existing concessions rather than begin a new licensing period.

Following a series of legal challenges, the CJEU ruled that a decision to extend sports-betting concessions in 2016 created a barrier to the entry of new operators that was in violation of EU free trade laws.

The ruling has left a legal cloud hanging over the entire market, in particular because all current concessions were recently extended until 2024.

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