The new Italian Government has put forward a draft of a new gambling bill, the contents of which have raised, let’s say, more than a few eyebrows in the gaming industry. The draft has not been officially published, but it was nevertheless recently leaked to the national media.
The bill allegedly proposes to completely eliminate all gambling machines, including slots and video lottery games, as well as exacting much stricter controls over any form of gambling which may involve the player making repeated bets. Existing controls are also set to be enhanced, such as a proposed increase in the minimum distance gambling facilities must be located from sensitive locations such as schools.
Furthermore, the bill apparently calls for a blanket ban on all gambling advertisements and sponsorships within Italy.
One phrase quoted from the bill calls for an “obligation to use a personal card to prevent child risk; imposition of spending limits; (and) tracking of suspicious cash flows.”
The general election held in March saw the creation of a new coalition government that includes strong representation from the Five Star Movement, whose founder, Beppe Grillo, once famously called for the total cessation of gambling advertisement in his blog. While Grillo removed himself from association with the party shortly before the election, the sentiment is still present in the Five Star Movement, which is widely regarded in Italy as a populist party concerned with protecting the poor and vulnerable. The new bill, if the leaked material is accurate, bears the hallmarks of their influence.
Slots and physical machines look set to be restricted to specific locations in Italy – notably, they appear to be prohibited in bars – and this is likely to hit the resident industry fairly hard if it comes into force. It looks likely that many operators will focus more on online offerings as a result.
There are many in local communities who will welcome this news. Local media in Italy abounds with horror stories about the impact that widespread access to gambling has had on local communities, and it appears that the proposed national solutions for problem gambling are somewhat in their infancy as well.
Italy is currently the second largest gambling economy in Europe, after the UK, but it looks likely to face some degree of rollback under the new government.
What’s obviously expected is an improvement in Italy’s problem gambling numbers; what the industry will need to do in order to form a sustainable relationship with the new administration is to continue to innovate and, in particular, look to improve their social responsibility regarding the prevention and treatment of problem gambling.