Italy Pushes Ahead with Gambling Law Overhaul Despite Industry Backlash

Italy has made a significant move towards overhauling its online gambling sector in 2024, with the government deciding to move forward with the Ministry of the Economy and Finance (MEF)’s decree to reorganize the industry. However, the proposed licensing fees have drawn criticism from operators who claim that the government’s approach has been haphazard and chaotic.

The new legislation is aimed at safeguarding players, particularly minors, and tackling criminal activities, while also increasing tax revenues for public projects and social causes. The measures outlined in the decree include addressing illegal gambling, protecting vulnerable players, introducing self-limitation tools, disseminating cautionary messages, and enforcing customer restrictions based on deposit levels.

Under the reformed concessions system, licensing fees will see a significant increase to €7 million ($7.66 million) from the previous €200,000 ($392,000). Operators will also be subject to a 3% operating fee on their net revenues, as well as an annual 0.2% fee contributing to responsible gaming campaigns under the jurisdiction of Italy’s Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM). Additionally, there will be a cap of five licenses for each operator, aimed at eliminating ‘skin websites’ and single concessionaire product sales.

The government anticipates generating significant revenues from these changes, estimating €350 million ($383.6 million) from competition and an additional €100 million ($109.6 million) annually from concession fees. Despite the government’s intentions, some measures have raised concerns among industry stakeholders, with the Italian Association of Public Games Operators and Italy’s Association for Slot Machine Vendors urging the government to involve the industry in making necessary changes before proceeding with the decree.

With 83 existing operators in Italy, the government expects at least 50 to apply for the new concession, signaling a notable industry shift and a means to resolve legal disputes surrounding licensing extensions. However, industry representatives warn that the proposed changes may disproportionately hurt smaller businesses.

Despite the industry’s discontent, the Italian government appears determined to proceed with its planned revisions, emphasizing the economic benefits and improved customer safety. However, the refusal to engage with the industry raises concerns that the new decree may have unintended consequences.