BOSE: Italian leadership optimistic of 2022 reform prospects

Italy’s gambling incumbents have navigated another turbulent year, not just due to COVID-19 induced closures of retail outlets but also due to increased attention from the legislative and regulatory fields. 

Discussing Italian gambling developments and prospects at the Betting on Sports Europe (BOSE) event, Marco Castaldo, CEO of Microgame, Carmelo Mazza, CEO of OIA Services, Stefano Sbordoni, Managing Partner and Founder of Sbordoni & Partners, shared their insights at the Italy 2022 – Reform or Shake-up panel, moderated by Quirino Mancini, Partner (Founder of SBC Advisory Partners) at Tonucci & Partners.

Finding ‘common ground’, Mazza and Castaldo maintained that they were ‘optimistic’ about the future of the Italian sports betting space, 

I’m fairly optimistic about the future of the market,” Mazza detailed. “I think that the current situation with all the regulatory guidelines that we’ve seen in the last year, even though it reates complexities – some of them not really needed – they leave very good opportunities for the growth of the market.”

Mazza outlined his view on what Italy’s regulatory authorities should aim to achieve in order to effectively coordinate the Italian sector. He added: “I believe that the most important things that regulators should do in future rearrangements is considered the multichannel model that has been explored in Italy for some years and regulate it in an adequate way. I think this is the real challenge.”

Meanwhile, although acknowledging his own optimism and noting that ‘the sentiment is very positive’ regarding post-pandemic dynamics in the sector, Castaldo held some reservations, saying: “I’m optimistic but I’m also concerned and I hope this legislation will be modified and reset.”

Explaining his reasoning, he remarked: “In the industry, it is true that there are a lot of activities ongoing but by definition, the industry doesn’t do enough or rather the industry doesn’t do the right thing, because the Italian gaming industry is very fragmented. 

“There are many different associations, there are interest groups that tend to focus on one gaming vertical or another,and so I think it has historically been very difficult for the legislator because the number of contacts in the gaming industry with different stories to tell is too high. I think this is an issue.”

A major development in Italy this year saw the country’s regulatory authority, the Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM), debate whether to postpone the planned tender for Italian gambling licences from 2023 onwards.

Moreover, the government has moved ahead with a ‘draft measure’ to reduce Italy’s online gambling marketplace to 40 licensed concessions – halving its current 82 player market field size. 

Offering his view on the tender process, Sbordoni said: “There are many obstacles from local authorities in Italy – regions, cities, towns and local organisations – due to provisions of the Ministry of Health, that has intervened in the gaming regulation by establishing differences between so-called ‘sensible institutions’ that are of various natures

“Of course there is an impossibility to set up a gaming location. It is impossible to predict when it will end. What we can expect is the expiration of the new tenders and the overriding of the principles of the gaming legislation.”

Finally, Mancini outlined his own opinions on Italian regulatory developments, underscoring the advice he would give to legislators as they formulate the country’s framework for industry oversight.

“Before putting pen to paper, they should collect objective, undisputable, unquestionable market data – information that is instrumental and crucial for the reshaping of the rules and regulations that is essential to set the bar at the right level in terms of licencing tender rules, and that is exactly what has never been done. 

He concluded that Italy’s parliament should “make an effort to govern more independent information. They have the tools to do so and I would strongly advise them to do so”.

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