Launch of online slots in Italy has struggling sports betting operators fretting


italy-online-slotsSpanish gaming operator Codere’s Italian subsidiary has purchased a 60% stake in DP Service Srl, a Rome-based gaming machine operator with around 2k terminals in use across 11 provinces. Codere Italy CEO Alexander Pascual says the firm is “committed to collaboration with serious and motivated companies to share with them a long-term plan to strengthen our position in the country.”

Codere also operates the site, so the home office is likely clicking its castanets at the news that Italy has, at long last, authorized the introduction of slots to the online gaming options available to Italian punters. Italian regulator AAMS okayed the launch of online casino games like blackjack and roulette in July 2011, but slots were designated as proibito, in part to allow the country’s video lottery terminal operators time to rollout their full complement of 54k machines. The country taxes VLTs and slots at much higher rates (4% and 12% of turnover, respectively) than it does online casino games (0.6%), so the delay was to make sure the cash-strapped state didn’t lose out on badly needed revenue.

Italy is delaying the official online slots launch until Dec. 3, 2012, ostensibly to give local firms time to develop a product that can compete with that of the big pan-European operators. The question remains as to how much the introduction of online slots will accelerate the decline experienced by horseracing and sports betting ever since the online casino and poker games launched. AAMS data put Q1 2012 gross gaming revenues from online sports betting at €53.8m, down from €74m in Q1 2011. April’s sports betting revenues were off 29.1% year on year and horseracing turnover fell a similarly depressing 25%. Initial figures for May don’t suggest any reversal of this trend. Italian fixed odds operators are also fretting about competition from exchange betting, due to be introduced over the coming months following the European Commission’s May 17 approval of the Italian licensing scheme.

Italy’s motivation behind welcoming online slots appears twofold: to capture some of the untaxed money Italian punters are currently spending on unsanctioned dot-com sites that already offer online slots, and to use such revenues to aid reconstruction in northern sections of the country ravaged by recent earthquakes, much in the way that Japan began reconsidering its anti-casino stance following the March 2011 earthquake/tsunami. We always knew gambling was good for society, but it’s nice to see governments acknowledging the good it can do.