In an age when political scandals worldwide have become the norm, Italy can still hold its own at the front of the pack: consider former Prime Minister and now Italian Senator Silvio Berlusconi‘s underage hooker drama and recent tax fraud case as just two that jump to mind in recent years. Now you can add a huge tumult caused by the passage of a one-year online gambling ban by the Italian government this week, considering that Italy is in as bad shape as any in Europe economically speaking, and desperately needs the billions in tax-revenue euros to stay afloat these days.
Measure Passes, But What Did They Pass?
The craziness stems from a motion filed by the Lega Nord party this week, supposedly with the currently politically correct goal of “harm minimization” from gambling. The measure calls for a 12-month ban on video lottery terminals (VLT) and what are termed “amusement with prizes” (AWP) while gaming in public places; it also demands a moratorium on the issuance of any further online gaming licenses, and, most crippling, the cessation of business for the 200+ currently licensed gambling operators who until now have been offering their inventory legally online in Italy.
Some even thought the crazy bill passage was a joke at first, because it was so untenable. Now Italy’s finance minister says the motion cannot be carried out, since the existing licensed online firms have already poured investment money into their Internet offerings for Italian gamblers, based on what they’d been promised was a nine-year licensing term. With the prospect of suing the government for damages and losses a very real one, Vittorio Grilli (said minister) must have a pounding headache right about now wondering how he will get it all sorted out.
With youth unemployment in Italy at a staggering 40 percent right now — and an economy projected to further dwindle another 2 percent on an already bad foundation – it sure doesn’t appear to be a brilliant move on the government’s part. Basically, Italy is sort of the Detroit of Europe: in bad, bad shape, and those who can are jumping ship. One story that illustrates exactly how ravaged the country is economically revolves around a Modena-based electronic components factory owner, who surreptitiously moved his entire operation to Poland over a two-week summer holiday period, simply to stay afloat.
The business mogul didn’t mince words in describing why he chose this stealthy and speedy move.
“I had three options: either close, move the factory … or shoot myself in the head,” the owner said, about dealing with Italy’s endless business red tape and sky-rocketing taxes.
Upon closer examination, it appears the Italian Senate wasn’t even entirely clear what they were passing, thinking they were only accepting a measure that would stop any future gaming licenses from getting green stamped. Like politicians everywhere, these guys and gals apparently don’t actually read a lot of what comes in front of them to vote on.
But at least American Senator John McCain would have paid more attention, had such a bill come in front of him, after he was caught playing mobile online poker during a recent Senate hearing on Syria.