Italy’s land-based gambling ops last to reopen post-pandemic


italy-retail-betting-gambling-reopening-pandemicItaly’s land-based gambling operators have been ordered to remain shut until at least May 3 and will likely be the last businesses to qualify for a new staggered reopening plan.

On Saturday, Italy’s government published its latest decree on retail commerce lockdowns to prevent further transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Betting shops, bingo halls and slots/video lottery terminal (VLT) rooms have all been ordered to remain shut until at least May 3.

The government is planning a staggered reopening of retail operations starting May 4, with strict rules regarding how many customers will be allowed inside shops. For example, shops occupying less than 40 square meters will only be allowed to admit a single customer at a time, and retail staff must wear masks, gloves and conduct twice-daily cleanings of the whole operation.

By May 11-12, the government plans to reopen some court facilities and professional offices. It’s possible that some bars, restaurants and other ‘entertainment’ venues will be allowed to reopen starting May 18, but much will depend on the number of new COVID-19 infections. Horseracing meets in Rome and Milan have been told they will remain under lockdown until at least May 14.

Online sportsbook operators will be pleased to learn that by the end of May, the government hopes to resume play of professional sports, including Serie A football, although this will only take place ‘behind closed doors’. The government doesn’t expect to open sports venues to the public until June or July, and even then this will be limited to venues with small capacity.

The current lack of sports activity and closure of retail operations has pummelled Italy’s betting industry, with revenue in March falling by nearly three-fifths year-on-year to just €75.3m, as retail betting fell 73% to €26m and online dropped 43% to €49.3m.

Italian football’s ownership ranks have appealed to the government to lift the prohibition on gambling advertising and sponsorship, even temporarily, to allow them to recoup the losses they’ve suffered from their enforced inactivity. But these pleas have gone unrewarded, with members of the 5 Star Movement party in particular rejecting out of hand any notion of allowing sports-related gambling promotions now or in future.