Italy’s betting operators are pushing back hard against a government proposal to impose a new tax on betting turnover to give struggling sports leagues a boost.
Last weekend, reports surfaced that Italy’s government was mulling a proposal to include a 0.75% tax on all sports betting turnover – land-based, online, and also on virtual sports – in the so-called Relaunch Decree aimed at getting Italy back up and running following the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proposed new tax would remain in place until December 31, 2022, with the money earmarked for a ‘football protection’ fund. Italy’s football leagues, which are struggling after being ordered to suspend play until the country got a hold on its COVID-19 problem, had initially pressed for a 1% turnover tax.
But Italy’s betting operators have been equally unable to earn during the pandemic, and land-based betting shops have yet to be given permission to open their doors to the public. (The government previously floated a timeline for retail gaming restarts, but this was binned shortly thereafter, leaving operators in the dark.)
Stefano Papalia, president of the Italian Federation of Legal Game Operators (FIEGL), said forcing struggling betting operators to pay even more tax “risks bringing the betting sector to its knees.” FIEGL national coordinator Corrado Luca Bianca added that the betting sector was “tired of being the ATM” in the government’s financial planning.
Papalia further warned that many betting operators are already unsure if they’ll be able to reopen, and thus new taxes will push many of them over the edge, with the net result that the government will have fewer bookies from which to collect this new tax.
On Monday, the government revised its draft legislation, reducing the turnover tax to 0.3%, but insisting that the sports fund must collect a minimum of €40m this year, and €50m in each of the following two years. Previous drafts put those minimums at €20m this year, €40m in 2021 and €20m in 2022.
Early drafts of the Relaunch Decree also contained plans to align the duration of gaming concessions so that they all expired on December 31, 2022. This was to have been done by extending concessions that were scheduled to expire prior to that date, with affected operators being asked to ante up hefty monthly fees until the end of 2022.
This concession language has reportedly been stricken from current drafts, but it goes without saying that Italy’s licensed gambling operators are lying awake each night wondering what fresh threats will emerge the following day.