The stark reality of governance by a populist Lega and Five Star coalition is dawning on all Italian industry stakeholders as a draft law circulates of a ‘total ban on betting advertising’.
This week the Italian Cabinet will review the draft mandate personally penned by Five Star leader and Italian Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio.
Di Maio and Lega leadership counterpart Matteo Salvini have made no secret of their disdain of gambling, stating in their respective 2018 elections campaigns that their parties would implement severe industry restrictions seeking to create a ‘stronger social contract against the ills of gambling’.
Italian news sources report that Di Maio’s draft mandate will seek to implement a blanket ban on any form of betting/gambling advertising, sponsorship or marketing/promotion.
Furthermore, the coalition will implement severe fines on operators, advertisers, publishers and sporting organisations that breach the draft mandate’s provisions.
The proposed fines are set to amount to 5% of advertising/sponsorship value, with a minimum penalty requirement of €50,000 for each law breached by the offending parties.
Di Maio has pressed for the Italian Cabinet to speed up the review of the draft mandate, stating that the blanket ban will be one of the first directives implemented by Lega- Five Star coalition.
In 2017, the betting sector invested circa €200 million in Italian advertising verticals, with TV commercials accounting for a total of €80 million.
Last week, Niklas Lindahl Managing Director of Stockholm-listed Leo Vegas AB’s Italian gambling division wrote an open editorial on Corriere della Sera, warning Lega-Five Star of the ramifications of undertaking a blanket ban on sector advertising.
Lindahl detailed that a total ban on advertising would simply aid unlicensed operators and bad actors targeting Italian betting consumers, thus weakening Di Maio’s desired stronger social contract on gambling.
Seeking an alternative consensus, Lindahl and Leo Vegas Italia advise that the coalition work with operators, sports bodies and advertisers to implement effective and responsible gambling laws over the proposed blanket ban.
Lindahl’s editorial would not fall on deaf ears, as Di Maio personally responded to the executive, stating that betting advertising had become excessive and that the coalition’s industry directives would reduce gambling activities throughout all verticals.
Speaking to AgiproNews on the potential political and legal ramifications of the blanket ban, Giulio Coraggio, Partner at DLA Piper, commented
“If online gambling operators cannot communicate their business to the public, this will inevitably have an impact on tax entries (to the benefit of unlicensed operators). Also, operators that hold a license (or just applied for a new license) might bring a claim seeking the refund of their license fees and investments which will lead to considerable disputes up to the Italian Constitutional Court and even in front of European courts with potential damages that the State might be obliged to refund”.