Italy Faces Reduction in Betting Shops, Arcades, Bingo Halls Through Gambling Reform
Posted on: February 8, 2022, 10:19h.
Last updated on: February 8, 2022, 11:37h.
Efforts to jumpstart gambling reforms in Italy are getting a boost. The Ministry of the Economy and Finance is taking over, ready to start an overhaul.
Italy has been working on methods of updating its gambling laws for years. It has made small steps here and there, but talk of a major reform never gained traction. Late last year, it seemed as though something was about to be done. But then everyone went silent. The country’s Ministry of the Economy and Finance (MEF) wants to change that.
Growing a little impatient with the lack of progress, the MEF has grabbed the bull by the horns. It is launching a reorganization plan that, if approved, it says will lead to significant changes in market safeguards.
Political In-Fighting Stalls Gambling Work
The new Budget Law for 2022 should have included gambling reforms, according to several lawmakers. However, with gambling absent from the new framework, any changes to the market wouldn’t likely occur until 2023.
The only real recent measure to advance gambling laws in the country was last November. The Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM, for its Italian acronym) turned on a new tracking app to help reduce black market operations.
That didn’t go far enough, though. There has been a call for the number of betting shops and bingo parlors to be reduced, with some wanting a 50% reduction. The ADM and the MEF both want this to happen. At the very least, the shops will only operate in designated and controlled areas.
The MEF has presented a draft measure that would facilitate this change. It’s part of a larger territorial reorganization plan that will upend the current land-based gaming operations. That is part of the reason for the continued delays, as industry supports clap back at the changes.
Ministry of Economy Has Other Plans
In addition to becoming proactive on the shutdown of certain gambling operations, the MEF has a few other changes in mind. It wants to launch a new central database for players that all operators – land-based and online – would have to adopt. The database is a complete registry of players that could also be used to facilitate self-exclusion selections.
Through the system, retail operators would receive identification verification measures to ensure gamblers are free to access properties, whether retail or online. The system would also provide a mechanism for certifying individual devices for online gambling. How this would work is still under wraps.
More efforts to target black market operations will arrive through the MEF’s policies. Increased powers would be given to a number of law enforcement and other agencies in order to make it easier to track activity. The Ministry also wants to increase the penalties for those platforms that offer their services without a license.
Provided there is enough support for the reforms, the MEF contends that the policies can become active in no more than 18 months, possibly sooner. The Parliament can handle approvals through “one or two legislative decrees,” it asserts.
New Concessions Waiting on Gambling Reform
Eighteen months is a long time, and it’s even longer considering the state of gaming concessions in Italy. Existing concessions are running out of time, with extensions provided last year about to expire.
Federico Freni, the Treasury undersecretary, has asserted that there won’t be new concessions without reform. Given that some licenses expire this June – those for gaming machines and certain betting activities – the MEF plan doesn’t provide an adequate solution. However, Freni has also said that additional extensions are possible.
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