Italy’s Serie A has voiced “extreme worry” over the recently approved absolute ban on any form of gambling advertising by the country’s government. The prohibition would have direct impact on the professional football league, as most of the teams playing in it are sponsored namely by gambling companies.
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Italy’s Council of Ministers approved earlier this week the so-called Dignity Decree, a 20-something-page legislative piece that, among other things, called for the absolute ban on gambling advertising within the country’s borders. The decree was introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio and was promoted as one aiming to reduce country residents’ exposure to gambling and the number of people addicted to various activities of this type. The piece is now set to take effect on January 1, 2019.
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Under a provision tacked onto the bill hours before it was voted by Ministers, existing advertising contracts would be honored until their expiration. Besides that, no gambling ads will be allowed across television, radio, the Internet, or any other mediums.
The legislative piece has drawn heavy criticism from the gambling industry itself as well as from other parties that would be affected by the reform, including Italian football. According to official statistics, gambling companies annually contribute more than €120 million to Italian football through sponsorship deals with teams and leagues.
Lega Serie A’s Concerns
As many as 12 Serie A football teams were sponsored by gambling companies during the 2017-18 football season. Lega Serie A, the governing body that runs the Serie A competition, said in a recent statement that it is following the latest developments closely and “with extreme worry”, pointing out that the league will lose millions of euro as a result from the new regulations.
Additional revenue will be lost from the sale of television rights as TV channels will no longer be able to provide gambling companies with advertising slots during football matches.
However, opponents of the blanket ban on gambling advertising have questioned the effectiveness of the measure as it unclear how it would be put into practice when foreign football clubs that are sponsored by gambling companies play in Italy. In addition, gambling-related advertising content will still be seen when matches from international leagues are broadcast on Italian television.
Concerns have also been voiced that instead of helping problem gamblers combat their issues and reducing country residents’ general exposure to gambling, the blanket ban would actually throw people in the hands of black market operators. Being able to advertise is one of the rights licensed operators are granted under their concessions from Italian gambling regulators, companies have pointed out.
Parties that will be affected by the gambling advertising ban, including operators and football leagues, have said that they are ready to discuss the ban with Ministers and propose measures that would effectively protect gamblers and would not have such a massive negative impact on the industry and those it sponsors.
According to information from Italy’s gambling regulator Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli, the total amount of €96.142 billion was wagered by Italian gamblers in 2016. That places the country among Europe’s largest regulated markets.