Italy has published long-awaited changes to its online bingo regulations.
The new framework, notified to the European Commission, will effectively allow licensed dot.it bingo operators to offer a wider range of game types and jackpots, as currently offered on their dot.com websites, and sets a minimum ticket price of €1c a game, up to a maximum of €10.
Leading Italian gaming lawyer Giulio Coraggio of DLA Piper commented that the new ticket price structure “might meet the needs of bingo operators which prefer a ‘soft game’ approach.”
Italian regulator AAMS and the Italian government are hoping that affording licensed operators greater flexibility in their bingo offering will help arrest the dramatic decline in the country’s ring-fenced online bingo market. Bingo revenues fell a massive 34% year-on-ear to €3m in June, according to the latest dataset from AAMS, impacted not only by the summer slowdown but by ongoing cannibalisation by new products since last summer and a high turnover tax.
With the statutory standstill period set aside for review of the draft by the Commission and other EU Member States scheduled to end on 12 November, allowing for the Italian government to pass this into law thereafter, operators in the dot.it bingo market should then also receive an additional boost from the launch of casino slot games in Italy, due to take place on 3 December. Side games typically provide between 40% and 60% of a bingo operator’s overall revenues in dot.com markets.
However, remote bingo games, like fixed-odds sports betting, will continue to be taxed on the punitive turnover basis that effectively renders it unsustainable for Italian-licensed operators to compete on price with offshore operators, which has led to increasing numbers of Italians playing on non AAMS-licensed sites.
Exponents of the expanded bingo offering in Italy will continue to pay 11% turnover tax, 1% Sogei fee and a minimum of 70% of stakes back to players, the draft law confirmed. However, this does represent preferential treatment compared to its land-based counterpart in Italy, where bingo halls are subject to a 20% turnover tax, 3.8% Sogei fee and 58% payback ratio.
bwin.party’s Gioco Digitale brand retained its position as market leader in the fast-shrinking regulated Italian online bingo sector in June, its 25% share of overall revenues keeping it ahead of Lottomatica (18.6%) and UK brand Tombola’s dot.it platform (11.4%).