An Italian online gambling bill that proposes banning all online poker ads will add to the woes of Italy’s rapidly declining online poker market.
This bill, which has the support of influential people, wants to ban all gambling-related advertisements. It has appeared before the Italian Senate and is scheduled for a debate in the near future.
Italy’s online poker market has been steadily declining from 2010 after the Italian government ring-fenced it, limiting it to Italian players only and imposing heavy taxes on it. Burdened by the tax structure, online poker operators were forced to cut down on bonuses and accept higher rake. This discouraged players and made it difficult for online poker operators to compete with unregulated online poker markets.
Regulated online poker rooms</a< went live in Italy in 2008, but in those days, only tournament poker was permitted. The country legalized online poker cash games in 2011, but by that time, the country had already ring-fenced its online poker market.
Although online poker is on the decline at the global level, the decline is the greatest in Italy, which witnessed an online poker revenue drop of nearly 20%. In June AAMS debated the possibility of launching a shared international liquidity in Europe to halt the decline.
The newly introduced bill approves the latest regulatory reforms that are friendlier towards online gambling. It proposes changes in the tax structure, as a result of which online gaming firms will no longer be taxed on gross revenue, but only on gross profit. This change will ease the tax burden on online gaming operators and would facilitate market growth. On the positive side, the country is also contemplating the possibility of merging its player pool with Spain and Italy.
However, according to Valerie Peano, a Roman gaming advocate at EGLA, the bill is a threat to the country’s Internet gaming industry as it prevents consumers from recognizing gaming sites licensed in offshore jurisdictions. She said:
Should the bill pass as it is, the future of any form of commercial communications to promote the gambling services of a licensed operator in Italy would be heavily compromised and this would damage especially the igaming sector.
Further explaining her statements she said that this would happen precisely because licensed operators in Italy will miss the possibility to set themselves apart from illegal online gaming products.
She also said that the EU Commission had pointed out that
commercial communication of online gambling services can play an important role in ‘directing consumers to the regulated offer.