Italy’s Gambling Advertising Ban Gets Government Tick, Takes Effect January 1, 2019

A full ban on gambling advertising is set to take effect in Italy from January 1, 2019, it was confirmed last night after the Italian Council of Ministers approved the so-called Dignity Decree authored by Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio.

Under Article 8 of the piece of legislation, all forms of advertising of gambling products and services across all media outlets, including television, radio, and the Internet as well as during sporting, cultural, and entertainment events, will be prohibited from next year. Sponsorships of football and other sports clubs will also be prohibited under the newly approved decree.

The measure has been promoted by Minister Di Maio and his office as one that would help Italy reduce problem gambling rates in the country.

The promotion of products provided by national lotteries will be excluded from the ban. And under a provision that was tacked onto the main decree yesterday ahead of the Council of Ministers vote, existing advertising contracts will also be excluded from the ban until their date of expiration. Italian Ministers explained that the language was included so that gambling companies are given enough time to prepare for the ban.

Italy has thus become the first European country to completely ban gambling advertising. Minister Di Maio has previously said that if the Council of Ministers approved his measure and if the ban took effect, he would use his influence to lobby for the introduction of heavier gambling advertising restrictions across the European Union.

Impact on the Industry

Needless to say, the gambling industry, which typically relies heavily on all forms of advertising to attract customers, will receive a heavy blow from the looming ban. The Managing Director of LeoVegas Italy, Niklas Lindahl, has said in a recent open letter to Minister Di Maio that being able to advertise across Italian media was what gave licensed operators an advantage over unlicensed ones.

According to the gambling executive, the black market will thus be the only party that will benefit from the absolute ban on gambling advertising as it would be able to lure customers more easily. Responding to that statement, Minister Di Maio has said that the ban would actually reduce the number of gambling people in the country in general, as not being exposed to promotional content they will not be tempted to wager their money.

It is believed that around 1 million people in Italy might be addicted to gambling or showing symptoms of problem gambling behavior.

Following last night’s passage of the Dignity Decree, LOGiCO, an association representing some of the largest licensed online gaming and betting operators that operate in Italy, urged the Italian government to reconsider its decision and to move to discuss and work closely with the industry to find an alternative solution for protecting the country’s population without harming a profitable industry.

Italy’s gambling industry contributed to the country’s Treasury over €10 billion in various taxes in 2016. Regulated operations generated revenue of €9.014 billion after tax and saw a cash flow of more than €96.142 billion during that year, according to information from Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli.

In terms of advertising spending, measurement firm Nielsen reported last year that regulated operators spent €45.9 million to promote their services in Italy during the first nine months of 2017. Including football sponsorships, the amount would go up to €200 million. Here it is important to note that only in Italy’s Serie A, 11 out of all 20 teams are sponsored by gambling companies.

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