Italy’s online casino operators were the market’s standout performers in 2019 as sports betting growth slowed and poker’s decline continued unabated.
Data released this week by Italy’s Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) regulatory body show the country’s sports betting operators generated combined land-based and online revenue of €1.59b in 2019, a 7.4% improvement over 2018’s result. Retail betting was up 3.2% to €867.5m while online betting improved 13.2% to €725.2m.
2019’s betting growth, which was 3.4 points lower than 2018’s 10.8%, came thanks to a phenomenal surge in December’s revenue, which leaped 123% year-on-year to €216m, the best showing of any month last year. While December’s online betting revenue nearly doubled to €91m, retail wagering soared 153% to €125m.
Bet365’s Italian site claimed top online betting honors in December, scoring an impressive 26.7% of turnover and 13.7% of online revenue. Playtech’s Snaitech division ranked second on the revenue chart with a 13.5% share, with SKS365 third with 12.1%.
The online casino vertical came close to dethroning retail betting in 2019, increasing its revenue by an impressive 17.1% to €831.4m, thanks to December’s revenue shooting up nearly 21% to €85.1m. The Stars Group’s PokerStars brand claimed the biggest slice (10.4%) of 2019’s online casino bounty, comfortably ahead of local lads Sisal (8.1%) and Lottomatica (7.9%).
Online poker continued its slide into irrelevance, with tournament revenue falling 5.2% to €77.6m while cash games slid 7.8% to €60.1m. PokerStars claimed the lion’s share of both tournament (60.4%) and cash games (41.8%) revenue. Sisal claimed the runner-up tournament position with a 7.3% share, while Lottomatica ranked second in cash games with 6.9%.
Italy’s sports betting operators will likely get a boost from this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, although this will mark the first major international football competition under Italy’s new advertising and sponsorship restrictions, so it will be interesting to see how operators adjust their practices from previous years.
Italy’s land-based operators are facing fresh challenges in 2020, thanks to the government’s late-December approval of tax hikes on slots and video lottery terminal (VLT) revenue. Slots will now be taxed at 23.85% (+2.17) while VLTs will face a rate of 8.5% (+0.6). Customers will face a 20% tax on VLT winnings above €200 and lottery winnings over €500.
Despite making their operation less attractive, Italy is planning a tender for the rights to nine new gaming machine concessions, with a total of 200k slots, 50k VLTs and 35k amusement with prizes machines up for grabs. The individual concessions, which the government expects to award before the year is through, will come at a cost of €2.5m apiece and will be valid for a period of nine years.