Italian operators face higher taxes as government imposes new laws
Betting operators in Italy have been dealing with not only constant rises in tax fees, but also bans on sponsorships and ads and much stricter controls that regulatory agencies have been imposing in the country. This has been going on for almost 3 years now.
The SBC Digital Italy Summit has been investigating the strategies used by the country’s operators as they make their way through such a hectic market, as well as looking into what 2021 might bring to the table, with political issues that could possibly end up in either “recovery, retreat or restart”.
Christian Tirabassi, who is currently serving as the Senior Managing Partner at Ficom Leisure (a gambling advisory in Italy), has been checking the methods through which leadership has gotten used to the sustained regulatory breaches that rule the country’s marketplace.
SKS365’s Group CEO Alexander Martin revealed his take on trading in 2021, as he stated that the country’s operators were doomed after the Italian government passed a bill that meant a new 0.5% turnover tax on all sports wagering verticals would be introduced.
Alexander Martin also highlighted the fact that regulatory involvements had caused the disorientation of the market. He went on to state:
Certainly, for us, 2019 was a year of reckoning for Italian gambling both for online and retail. The government proceeded to install the decree’s advertising ban and since then none of us have been able to promote our brands in any public viewing. The market has become disorientated for the consumer, who is faced with disinformation of licensed operators especially across online platforms. The aftermath of the decree’s blanket ban carries a €150 million blackhole for Italian football, which helps no-one and carries costs for TV, media and regional sports. As licensed operators, we have been denied the responsibility to market our products responsibly to consumers. We are also seeing no effort by the regulator to safeguard consumer channelisation to licensed operators. Whilst other industries receive support and benefits, we are told to stay closed and pay more taxes. Cafes and Restaurants have been allowed to reopen, but gambling venues have been provided no certainties…nothing has been planned.
Carlo Di Maio, Gamenet Group’s managing director, was actually able to make use of the marketplace consolidation as he gloriously expanded the company’s presence within retail to over 17,000 betting points. Di Maio stated:
Without advertising, 2019 forced us to accelerate our omnichannel approach, in which we were recording single-digit growth across retail and double-digit online… we were looking forward to breaking staking records until 2020 happened. It was not easy, we had to support our franchisees for four months, taking in all their costs during lockdown. Let’s just say that the consumer has done a bit of catch-up, and is now more aware of the digital offer, for mobile especially and also online casinos too. Meanwhile, Italy’s retail offer has been limited and static to date, with operators choosing to maintain the customer within a single vertical.
Filippos Antonopoulos, CEO of OKTO (the well-known igaming payments provider) also made sure to mention that the country’s current regulatory scene reflects that of the rest of the European jurisdictions. He said that he agreed with Di Maio’s outlook on the situation, saying:
Retail agents have always tried to ring fence the player away from digital operations, which is a hard custom to break as Italian betting operates on a franchise model.
Coming face to face with more issues, Antonopoulos underlined the necessity of investment in new technologies all over Italian gambling’s value chain to be able to jumpstart the market.
We have to judge the market through the eyes of the regulator. For Italy, the pandemic has changed many pre-conceptions of the market. Whilst Italy needs urgent innovation, the regulator is concerned about player anonymity and problematic gambling. We should approach this as a restart for Italian gambling. However, the betting shop must be thought of as an ally for operators, as they stand as a secure entry point for many consumers.