Italian Parliament Approves Law to Ban Gambling Ads

On August 7, the Italian Senate approved the “Dignity Decree”, a wide-ranging bill that is meant to address issues surrounding temporary work contracts, compensation for unfair dismissal, businesses relocating overseas as well as problem gambling. In other words, the bill, in essence, will ban nearly all gambling-related advertising in the country – officially, it bans all forms of advertising relating to gambling products that allow players win money with the exception of the state lottery. However, existing contracts and sponsorships have been grandfathered in until June 30, 2019.

Previously passed by Italy’s Council of Ministers at the beginning of July 2018, the bill made its way to the Chamber of Deputies earlier this month before it was eventually passed last Tuesday. Its presumable main focus is to deal with problem gambling through a rather surgical manner which begins with banning all forms of gambling advertising on all media outlets in the country.

The ban will also include brand exposure for any gambling-related service providers at sporting, artistic or cultural events. This will particularly hurt soccer teams in Italy’s series A since about half of them have shirt sponsorship deals with gambling operators. Fortunately, as mentioned earlier, the teams and gambling operators have been given a grace period that will come to an end on June 30 next year.

“The disease of the game is an obstacle and my job is to eliminate it and we have identified the prohibition of advertising for the game as an instrument,” said Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio. “We will not surrender.”

The Implications

Even though the Italian government’s intentions might genuinely be to deal with problem gambling, many experts believe that the rather strict measures may turn out to be counteractive since illegal gambling operations may take advantage of the ban on regulated advertisements and target the country’s gambling market.

“Blocking every type of advertising does nothing to reduce such things, which are often accessed by teenagers…. It just blocks advertising. And physical slots in bars don’t need any advertising to earn money and to destroy people’s lives,”, an Italian website that provides information on responsible gambling on regulated gambling wrote in a recent blog post. “Without online advertising, it will be very difficult to recognize legal and reliable sites, while the illegal ones will take advantage and gambling addiction will flourish.”

Also, Italy has had a rather sluggish online poker market and this is one of the factors that motivated its gaming regulator to agree to the shared liquidity poker agreement with Spain, France, and Portugal. While the three countries have already started participating in their shared liquidity agreement, Italy has not joined the party.

The ban on gambling advertisements could potentially cripple the online poker industry since player acquisition will become a huge problem as most of the operators rely heavily on the adverts to generate traffic and attract new poker players to their platforms.

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