Online gambling operator LeoVegas has been critical of the new Italian coalition government's draconian suppression of anti-gambling advertising, and this week took the fight to the next level by filing a formal complaint with the European Commission, claiming the Italian government is completely wrong in its actions and has acted against EU law and principles.
The company has made it clear, however, that it is more than prepared to work with the government in the interests of developing an effective and reasonable responsible gaming framework that protects punters and enables the industry to operate in a legal, regulated and business-like manner.
The filing cites European Commission Recommendation (2014/478/EU), which states “gaming advertising is recognised by the European Commission as an important way for legitimate and authorised gaming companies to distinguish themselves from illegal operators”.
It also claims that the advertising shutout in an internal market is in contravention of both Articles 54 and 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
“The direct consequence of the total ban is that it restricts market access for providers of online gaming services that are established in another Member State. Because of the ban, those operators have no incentive any longer to enter the Italian gambling market as they will not be able to grow in the market due to the lack of marketing means,” the filing declares.
“It is without question that the objective of consumer protection, as mentioned in the Dignity Decree, could have been attained through the use of less restrictive measures.”
LeoVegas is not alone in tackling the Italian government on the issue, which has profound consequences for the industry in that country.
The trade association for Italian online operators, LOGICO has also spoken out against the ban, and the wider European trade body European Gaming and Betting Association has raised its voice as well. Both have warned that the industry, many jobs and sports sponsorships could be adversely impacted by the ban and its commercial consequences.
The hope is that the government will be influenced by the European Commission to reconsider its rather hasty moves against gambling in the relatively recent opening stages of its administration.
In related news, the Italian regulator Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) has confirmed that just 80 of the 120 five-year online gambling and betting licenses it offered in a process that started in January this year (see previous InfoPowa reports) have been applied for at a reported fee of Euro 200,000 each.
The regulator hopes to have the licenses issued by Christmas this year, but one has to wonder what the applicants are feeling right now as they face a market where it is exceedingly difficult to run normal marketing strategies.
Observers have also pointed to the lingering effects on all commerce and industry where governments make sudden, unexpected and excessive moves that damage businesses. The reputation of the country inevitably suffers, taking with it the prospect of future investment.