New Italian Gambling Chief Vows Action

October 25, 2021
Italy’s new gambling minister has promised action on tender extensions and said that the country’s gambling laws are not fit for a “civilised” society.


Italy’s new gambling minister has promised action on tender extensions and said that the country’s gambling laws are not fit for a “civilised” society.

"Italian gaming laws are ineffective and do not operate as they should in a civilised country," announced Federico Freni, the newly-appointed undersecretary of the Treasury, at a conference in Rome last week.

For this reason, an enabling law to completely reorganise the sector will soon be discussed by parliament, he said.

He also vowed to put a stop to the cycle of year-on-year gaming concession extensions, which he said do not allow companies to plan investments.

They provide tax revenues, but are useless and sterile without a reorganisation, said Freni.

"In the Budget Law — hence by December 31 — the new extensions must arrive. This will give the government time to approve a new gaming act,” he said.

Many of Italy’s current gaming concessions expire on March 31, 2022, leaving little to no time for a new tender.

Freni’s planned extensions are expected to last for at least two years in order to permit the government, parliament, and the Italian regions to set up a new gaming regime.

“Without a regulatory intervention, the taxman will lose revenues and the sector will fall apart,” said Freni.

Italy is already facing a smaller tax take from gambling. In 2020, the total gross gaming revenues from Italian land-based and online gambling declined by 33 percent to €12.4bn, while total turnover fell by 17 percent to €75bn.

After the reopening in June, the crisis has remained largely unchanged: the turnover of the gaming machines’ sector — the largest tax payer in the Italian gambling market — has dropped by 30-40 percent due to the mandatory use of vaccine passports to enter outlets.

“Two years of closures and lockdowns have put a strain on the financial stability of the industry, but the conditions are ideal to restart the sector," said Guglielmo Angelozzi, CEO at Lottomatica, the Apollo Global-owned company that organised the conference in Rome.

However, he added, "clear and certain rules are needed”.

As for online gaming, Freni also pointed to a handful of issues in his Rome speech: “The huge amount of authorised sites, as each operator has an average of 4 skins [is a problem]. Furthermore, many foreign companies with an Italian concession do not pay corporate taxes in our country.

“During the pandemic, online gaming has grown significantly and it is equally obvious that the illegal sector has also taken advantage of the situation,” he said.

Estimating the yearly black market size is difficult, according to national anti-mafia prosecutor Federico Cafiero De Raho: “A €20bn turnover is probably an underestimation. There is a widespread network run by criminals and this indicator worries us enormously, as it demonstrates the mafia’s extraordinary infiltration skills."

But the Italian legislation "is restrictive enough, even if the checks on the web should be fortified", said Cafiero De Raho.

In Italy, he added, recent investigations have demonstrated that illegal gaming networks are highly sophisticated: “We noticed that alongside the so-called tax havens there are also some 'regulated' havens, even in Europe, where suspicious companies are based.”

A new tool to tackle illegal gaming was recently announced by Marcello Minenna, head of the Italian gaming regulator, the Agency of Customs and Monopolies (ADM).

On November 9, the ADM will launch a new app for iOS and Android called “Gioco Sicuro”, allowing Italian citizens to check the compliance status of all dedicated and non-dedicated gaming outlets, as well as the regulatory status of any gaming product.

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