Italian sports betting market rebounds; Paf buys Winga, launch iBandit

italy-paf-winga-ibanditItaly’s online sports betting market has enjoyed a new lease on life ever since the government relaxed restrictions on the types of sports betting operators could offer. Figures viewed by eGaming Review show online betting stakes hit €188m in December, up 65% from December 2013. For the year as a whole, stakes hit €1.6b, a gain of 23% from the previous year. Credit for the gains goes to regulators expanding the range of betting options (this year and last) and the launch in October of Bet365’s Italian-facing site.

Finnish gambling operator Paf has waded into the Italian market via the acquisition of Milan-based Winga. The Playtech-powered site offers casino, poker and bingo products and also broadcasts live roulette games on Italy’s digital TV networks. Winga was previously owned by Italian conglomerate Buongiorno SpA. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Winga generated €10m in revenue in 2014.

Paf plans to expand Winga’s offering via additional casino games and a possible sportsbook launch “in the next few years.” Paf CEO Anders Ingves said the acquisition represented Paf’s “continued internationalization and expansion” but Paf’s previous endeavors in European regulated markets have not always ended that well. Paf pulled out of the Spanish online poker market in 2013.

Paf has yet to reveal whether its Italian customers will have access to the iBandit (pictured above), the groundbreaking device for fooling slots players into thinking they’re actually in a brick-and-mortar casino. The iBandit, essentially a slot machine lever encased in a small block of oak, was released in December to commemorate both the 15th anniversary of PAF’s online site and the anniversary of the €17.9m slots jackpot a Paf player won in 2013.

Developed by the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery, the iBandit connects to your computer’s USB port, allowing a more tactile experience to your slots play. Paf communications manager Matias Lindquist said the iBandit “forms a transparent link” between Paf’s digital and land-based casinos. For a small additional fee, Paf employees will come to your home and chain smoke cigarettes for that truly visceral in-casino atmosphere.