Italian gambling industry beats the records
Notwithstanding accounting for only 2 percent of the world’s population, the Italian gambling industry makes up around 20 percent of the world’s entire gambling market.
At the beginning of 2019 an independent research body Eurispes released Italy 2019 Report, which indicates that overall Italian gambling turnover reached €101.8b in 2017, more than doubling 2008’s turnover of €47.5b and going up nearly seven times since 2003’s €15.5b.
Italian gamblers’ actual losses before taxes equaled to nearly €19b, around €10b of which was spent paying taxes to the government, leaving about €8.6b net profit for Italian-licensed gambling operators.
Gambling in Italy has been around for a long time, and it goes all the way back to the times of the Roman Empire. Back in those ancient days, the Roman emperors used to play the oldest gambling game in the world – dice. Baccarat originated in Italy in the 15th century, and Bingo traces its roots to Italy. In the 1530s, the Italians played a game called ‘Lo Giuoco del Lotto D’Italia’ that resembled bingo.
The first gambling establishment in Italy opened in Venice in1638 and was called Ridotto, This facility was open to the public but attracted dodgy and seedy elements of society, and in the late 18th century, Ridotto was closed down. Today this gambling facility functions as Casino di Venezia, and it is the oldest casino in the world.
To avoid the same fate, gambling clubs, afterwards, were only open for the wealthy and up-standing class of citizens. These clubs were called casinos. The word “casino” traces its roots back to the Italian origin. This is where the tradition of exclusive atmosphere and elegance of casinos comes from. Indeed, until the late 20th century casinos were mostly open to a closed circle of wealthy members, – businesspersons and politicians. No women were allowed.
Evolution of Italy’s gambling regulatory framework
Gambling is legal in Italy. Casino gambling, sports betting, lottery, pari-mutuel betting, and other types of gambling are all legal in Italy. ADM (Agenzia delle Dogane ei dei Monopoli – Italian Agency of Customs and Monopoly) is the overseeing body responsible for regulation, supervision, licensing and collecting duties and taxes of all gambling activities and facilities within the country.
The legal definition of land-based gambling and other gambling-related provisions are spelled out in the 1930s Criminal Code, sections 718 through 723. Online gambling, on the other hand, is outlined in the 2011 ADM Decree, section 1.3(p).
It is quite remarkable that the Italian Penal Code prohibits gambling and such general principle is inscribed into law by Articles 718 to 722 of the Penal Code. However, the State does not pursue a strict policy of prohibition; the games; that, directly or indirectly, represent an exception to the general principle pursuant to ad hoc legislation, are considered legal.
Up until 1900-ies, and throughout most of the past century, various types of gambling in Italy were unregulated and were largely affiliated with and controlled by Mafia.
The process of legalizing gambling activities in Italy started in the 1900-ies. The National Lottery was established in 1932 and operated by different Italian companies. Today, SuperEnalotto is the most popular lottery and operated by Sisal.
In 1927 an autonomous administrative body on state monopolies called AAMS (Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato), which later in 2011 became ADM, was founded. Originally, AAMS was created to oversee production, sales, and import of salts and tobacco, but in 1980, its functions were changed to supervision and regulating of gambling facilities and activities within the country.
Over subsequent years, gambling regulation in Italy became more centralized. Starting with1988 AAMS acquired supervision of many national lotteries, the Lotto, then Bingo, and by 2001, the body received a full licensing and regulatory control of all land-based gambling activities and facilities within the country.
From the early 20th century through 2015, the gambling laws of Italy underwent a series of modifications through various decrees, acts, and laws concerning gaming machines, prize competitions, horse race, and sports betting, card games, fixed odds games of chance and skill, online poker tournaments and others.
2006 marked a decisive turning point for the country’s gambling industry, which drafted legislation to legitimize certain games of skill, and to open up its stringent betting market to bookmakers licensed beyond Italy’s borders,- although, initially the licensing was restricted to EU countries or the countries that were a part of the European Free Trade Association. In the subsequent years, yet more forms of gambling were legalized, with poker initially only allowed in tournament form in 2007.
In 2007, the Italian government passed the Finance Act that legalized card games of skill such as poker. The purpose of the Act was to regulate poker tournaments that took place on the territory of Italy. In addition, in 2007, the Italian government adopted the Decree on Liberation that made online gambling a legal pastime in Italy. More cash games, fixed-odds casino games of chance and video poker were legalized by 2010.
By 2010, these changes resulted in foreign gambling sites being allowed to offer their services in Italy if they could successfully obtain an Italian gambling license from the AAMS.
There are a number of requirements that need to be met by companies applying for such a license. For example, an operator must have a minimum turnover of €1.5m in Europe over the past two years, it must be based in an EU country, and its software must be stable and secure. In addition, the company is required to pay a mandatory €320,000 fee to support the ADM in regulating the market.
Nowadays, there are more than 200 gambling websites in Italy. About 150 of them are online casino websites, while the rest of them are online bingo websites, online poker websites and mobile casinos.
One of the things that really makes Italy different from other gambling jurisdictions is that their rules and penalties for breaking these rules are much stricter and much more severe than what you will come across anywhere else in Europe and in the world. This helps to create a responsible market, and, it contributes to cleaning up the image of the industry that has been influenced and affiliated with the Mafia for quite a long time.
For example, at the end of 2018, Italy’s anti-mafia police arrested 68-suspected mobsters in a vast international raid on organized crime groups connected with illegally recycling large sums of money and making millions of euros through online gambling. The value of seized assets acquired by mobsters was in total worth one billion euros hidden in 12 European countries including luxury apartments and a football team.
As of January 2019, the Italian government raised taxes and applies the following tax brackets for various gambling activities:
- Online sportsbook – 24 % of GGR
- Online casino and bingo -25% of GGR;
- Land-based casinos and sportsbook – 20%percent;
- Virtual sports – 22 %
- AWPs (Slot machines) tax is 18.85%,
- VLTs are taxed 6.75% of GGR.
Italian hot gambling climate and popular games
As of 2018, there are about 38 land-based operating casinos in the country. Most of them are quite recent, while five long-standing casinos in Italy are the biggest and take up a major share of the Italian gambling market. These casinos are Casino de la Vallée in Saint-Vincent Resort; Casino di Sanremo; two in Venice: Casinò di Venezia -Ca’ Noghera, Casinò di Venezia, and Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, and Casino Municipale di Campione d’Italia. Up until the early 2000s, only these five land-based casinos were open in Italy.
The 38 casinos in Italy are sprawled throughout 15 cities with many of them situated in Milan that hosts 10 gambling facilities making the Lombardy metropolis the largest gambling city in Italy.
Casino Municipale di Campione d’Italia in Milan is the largest casino in Italy in terms of quantity of gambling equipment and gaming space. The casino offers 778 gaming machines and 56 table games with a gaming space of about 590,000 square feet. Casino di Venezia: Ca’ Noghera is the second largest casino boasting 610 gaming machines and 20 table games.
Facing a tough competition from a huge number of slot machines and video lottery terminal (VLTs) distributed all over the country, as well as a steady expansion of an online gambling sector, Italy’s four major land-based casinos have been incurring a decline in gross gaming revenue, amounting to more than 40% since 2005.
According to Statista, from January to June 2017, the four major Italian casinos from January to June 2017generated the highest cash inflow of about 90 million euros from slot machines, and 12.5 million euros from Roulette.
Slot machines and virtual lottery terminals have become extremely popular In Italy. Currently, there are over 400, 000-slot machines distributed throughout the country, and they can be found even in pharmacies.
As per European Casino Association data, in December 2016, there were 407,000 slot gaming machines and 54,000 VLTs installed all over Italy, which in 2016 recorded a total turnover of € 49.4bn.
According to the data provided by Statista, the highest gambled amount of money in 2017 was spent on slot machines – approximately roughly 25.4 billion euros, and video lottery terminals – 23.5 billion euros.
There are a number of sports betting options open to Italians, including horseracing, tennis, and F1. However, football betting is by far the most popular of these, with the country’s top domestic league, Serie A, drawing much of the attention.
Betting on horseracing has long been available to Italians, with UNIRE (the National Horse Breeders Enhancement Society) offering betting markets at racecourses and online for quite a few years. Currently, there are close to 350 off-track betting concessions with the possibility of continued growth.
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Would you like to learn more about gambling in other countries, please see the following:
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