Italian government seeks to shrink online gaming market

14 November 2019

Italy’s Five Star Movement-Democratic Party coalition government has set out plans to reduce the number of online gaming licences available in the country from 85 to 50 by 2023.

The government revealed plans in its first Budget Law decree, which, published by Italian gambling regulator Agenzia delle dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM), also includes various other measures for the wider Italian gambling market.

For online gambling, licences will be priced at €2m (£1.7m/$2.2m) each and run for a period of nine years, effective from 2023. These licences will cost the same for operators renewing their existing permits or those entering the market for the first time.

The application process for new licences will commence in 2021 or 2022, with operators able to pay for the permits in two installments. The first must be at least 50% of the price within 30 days of being awarded the licence, and the second within 30 days of signing the permit.

Other changes to the Italian gambling market include a concession whereby the government will permit a maximum of 250,000 slot machines to operate across the country.

The government will permit up to 58,000 video lottery terminals country-wide, while gaming points of sale will be capped at a maximum of 35,000. In addition, up to 2,800 gaming halls will be allowed to operate.

Confirmation of the changes to the online gaming sector come after the ADM in February approved igaming licences for 70 operators, following a delayed tender process. The final number issued fell significantly below the 120 made available by the government.

The Stars Group, William Hill, Paddy Power Betfair, GVC and bet365 were among the operators to secure licences. Permits cost €200,000 – significantly less than the price of the new licences – and are due to run until 31 December 2022.

Operators active in Italy are subject to strict marketing rules under the so-called Dignity Decree, which has banned almost all gambling advertising since January 1, 2019.

Changes to Italian tax law, announced late in 2018, means operators are now subject to higher gambling taxes. Also effective from January 1, tax on online casino and bingo was increased to 25% of gross gaming revenue (GGR), with fixed odds betting tax raised to 24% of GGR.

Land-based sports betting operators are now taxed at 22% of GGR, while tax on virtual sports (22%), video lottery terminals (6.75% of turnover) and amusement with prizes (18.85% of turnover) were also increased.

Taxes on VLTs and AWPs have since been increased twice, with the 2020 Budget hiking the tax on VLTs to 9% of turnover, and to 23% for AWPs.