Italy’s Crime Syndicates Could Fill Void of Legal Gaming, Ex-Pol Warns

Posted on: March 3, 2021, 07:55h. 

Last updated on: March 3, 2021, 08:54h.

The government shutdown of Italy’s legal gaming venues by the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to organized crime filling the demand with illegal options, warns a former Italian Senator and academic.

Italy Organized Crime Illegal Gaming
Italy’s new Prime Minister Mario Draghi shown above. He is expected to keep legal gaming operations closed in Italy for now. (Image: The Guardian)

When asked about the current policy, Gianfranco Pasquino told, “My only preoccupation concerns the likelihood that keeping legal gambling venues closed, all or much of the gambling will fall into the hands of organized crime.”

Pasquino was a senator in the Italian Senate in the 1980s and 1990s. He taught political science at or was affiliated with such universities as Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Oxford, and the University of Bologna.

Pasquino also confirmed it is not a surprise that Italy’s new Prime Minister Mario Draghi is keeping gaming venues closed.

“Definitely, re-opening gambling cannot be considered a priority of any type,” Pasquino said.

He points out that Draghi was a governor of the Bank of Italy and president of the European Central Bank. He was sworn in as prime minister last month.

“Probably, someone who has been a banker has additional knowledge that we do not have,” Pasquino said.

In addition, Spencer DiScala, a historian focused on Italy who teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, told that Draghi “is following the policies of his predecessor on COVID-19, who pledged to let himself be guided by science.

“Infections have plateaued at a high level and even schools are closed if the rate goes above 250 per 100,000,” DiScala said.

Italy has seen close to 3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the outbreak began. More than 98,000 residents of Italy died from the pandemic.

Lockdown Continues

The earliest legal gambling could be reviewed in Italy is April 6, SBC News reported. Given the closures, Italy’s arcades, betting shops, bingo, casinos, and gaming halls could be placed in lockdown for a full year, SBC said.

Outrage over the lockdown last month led to unions representing an estimated 150,000 workers in the gambling sector to protest in Milan and Rome.

Recently, a compromise proposal was floated to lift restrictions on legal gaming operations if they were located in provinces where COVID-19 infection rates were relatively low. But that option has been rejected by Draghi.

In the past month, some attractions, bars, cafes, museums, and restaurants reopened in select areas of Italy with lower coronavirus risk. Health precautions remain in place.

Based on recent data, licensed gaming venues in Italy generate 4.5 billion Euros per year in taxes. That translates to about US$5.4 billion.

Mafia Trial Underway in Italy

Worries about organized crime taking over more gambling in Italy comes as a massive Mafia trial is underway in the nation.

On trial are 355 suspected members and accomplices of the ’Ndrangheta crime syndicate. The syndicate is accused of illegal gambling, murder, and other major crimes.

In 2015, authorities conducted a sting targeting 1,500 ’Ndrangheta betting shops and 82 online gambling sites, the Daily Mail reported.

The ’Ndrangheta is made up of about 6,000 members, the FBI said. It is considered more powerful than Cosa Nostra in Sicily and the Naples-based Camorra, news reports reveal.

For instance, the ’Ndrangheta controls 80 percent of the European cocaine supply, reports claim.