Italy’s gambling industry frets as coalition gov’t rises from the dead


italy-coalition-gambling-sectorItaly’s gambling industry is once again under threat as the recently formed coalition government appears to have survived last week’s near-death experience.

Last Friday, Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella agreed to accept Giuseppe Conte as the country’s new prime minister, representing the coalition of the League and Five Star Movement (M5S). The country had appeared headed for new elections after the coalition failed to convince Mattarella to accept their original choice for finance minister, but that was then, this is now.

Last month, the coalition released a document outlining their plans for governing, including a harsh position on the nation’s gambling industry. The coalition has proposed a 35% reduction in the number of land-based gaming machines and an “absolute ban” on gambling advertising and sponsorships.

In case anyone thought the coalition was bluffing, M5S Senator Matteo Mantero (pictured) unveiled drafts of two new pieces of legislation last week, the first covering restrictions on the placement of gambling venues and limiting them to eight hours of operation per day.

The second bill calls for a ban on “advertising propaganda of games with cash prizes,” with both the gambling operator and the owner of the advertising medium on which the ads appear liable for penalties ranging from €50k to €500k based on the severity of the infraction.

These potential new curbs come just as Italian operators are adjusting to new anti-money laundering (AML) rules, which include the scrapping of the simplified account registration process that was introduced a couple years ago. From now on, operators will require digital customers who sign up via web or mobile devices to fill out at least 12 data fields.

Studies have shown the more complicated the initial sign-up process, the less likely customers are to see it through to the end, particularly for mobile users. With the FIFA World Cup kickoff just around the corner, Italian-licensed operators are fretting that they will lose customers to less data-hungry internationally licensed sites serving the Italian market without local authorization.

Land-based operators (betting, bingo, VLT, etc.) are also subject to new AML requirements, including reporting high-value buy-ins and winnings, as well as customer tracking to facilitate self-exclusion programs.