Italy expands blacklist

Italy’s gaming regulator yesterday published its annual update to its blacklist of unauthorised websites to be blocked in the country.

The blacklist, which comes into force on 23 October, contains 57 more domains and sub-domains than the last update on 3 October last year, taking the total number of domains to be made unavailable to Italian punters to 4,215.

The blacklist was introduced six years ago to implement provisions of the Finance Act 2006, which established the regulatory framework for Italy’s online gambling market, whereby operators were required to obtain a national licence issued from AAMS to continue targeting Italian consumers on a legal basis.

The blocks have however proved largely ineffectual in preventing Italian players from playing on sites which haven’t received authorisation from AAMS, as offshore operators are easily able to circumvent these using new domains and redirects.

The ineffectiveness of these blocks, higher taxes and a narrower choice of products and markets compared to offshore sites has seen Italy’s gambling market, once the model for European countries looking to regulate their online markets, stagnate and decline in recent months.

Revenue from gambling on poker, sports, casino table games, bingo and other products in Italy’s ring-fenced market in August fell 11.3% year-on-year to €48.8m from €55.1m a year earlier, with all products suffering declines over the summer with the exception of fixed odds sports betting. The collapse was felt most strongly in poker, where regulated operators have struggled to compete with the greater liquidity available on open sites.

The regulator and the Italian government is looking to the launch of new products and a wider range of markets in games to turn the tide. Online slots will launch in December, with fast-fold poker, virtual betting and exchange betting also imminent. New online bingo regulations allowing operators to offer players a wider range of game types and jackpots were notified to the European Commission in August. AAMS is also in talks with its Spanish counterpart, the DGOJ, over the potential pooling of poker liquidity from 2013.

However, the industry’s largest trade association, the Remote Gambling Association has argued that Italy needs to move gross profit tax for sports betting from the current tax on stakes in order to realise more tax income and better consumer protection. According to a KPMG-authored report commissioned by the RGA, the current regime mkes it impossible for licensed operators to compete with the value available on offshore sites, leading to increasing numbers of Italians betting there instead of on AAMS-licensed sites. Online bingo is also hindered by a prohibitive turnover tax.

Article written by Stephen Carter

Casino Choice journalist

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