Italy’s plan to ban gambling adverts will have a “massive impact” on online companies, handing an advantage to land-based operators, an industry expert has told Gambling Insider.
Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio on Thursday said that the newly elected Italian government is planning an “absolute ban” on advertising and sponsorships. The coalition also wants a one-third reduction in video lottery terminals (VLTs) in retail outlets and a reduction in amusement with prizes machines.
Any advertising ban “will have a major effect on the Italian gambling industry, although it is possible to have an industry without advertising as the UK did from 1960-2007,” Steve Donoughue, a London-based industry expert, told Gambling Insider.
“However, the major difference is the fact that the UK industry at the time was land-based, modern online gambling is different. Online operators must advertise sign up offers, if you remove adverts it becomes near impossible for them do business. It will have a massive impact, with an advantage going to land-based operators. As a result online companies could be forced into gorilla marketing which is incredibly expensive.”
Italy has introduced legislation to prohibit “any form, director or indirect, of advertising propaganda, of commercial communication, sponsorship or promotion of brands or products of games with cash prizes, offer in collection networks, both physical and online.” It is also considering spending limits and requiring gamblers to use a personal bank cards to prevent underage gambling.
Donoughue, who has advised William Hill Group and the National Casino Industry Forum, said Italy holds the mistaken belief that ads cause problem gambling.
"Operators need to educate people and governments about how socially responsible they are through education programmes and lobbying, in order to help change these perceptions," Donoughue told Gambling Insider.
“Nothing is straightforward in Italy at the moment, there could be a new government at anytime and new legislation can often take a while to be enforced. But, if it does happen and they do ban all gambling adverts, it will be disastrous to their industry”.
Italy’s gambling market has been rapidly growing during a period of economic hardship for the rest of the country, making it a prime target for the cash-strapped government.