Amusement in Italy: new rules in force, except for existing games, not ticket redemptions

Amusement in Italy: new rules in force, except for existing games, not ticket redemptions

After the decree of technical rules returned from Brussels (despite the many notices from the stackeholders), the Italian regulator gives the green light to the new amusement market, with new measures on the distribution of games.

The amusement machines (flipper, arcade, etc.) currently in circulation in Italy are safe and will be able to continue to operate, even after the entry into force of the new legislation that rewrites the distribution and approval rules just issued by the regulator. But only under appropriate indications. With the only exception of ticket redemptions, which continue to remain in the limbo they were in before the new regulation, as was to be expected and unavoidable. This is, therefore, the main novelty introduced by the new system of rules fixed by the Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli for the Amusement sector, with the new decree of administrative rules which is added to that of technical rules already published in recent days, after the green light obtained from Brussels. With the new measures, the requests of the operators are accepted, but only in part, worried about the possible disappearance of the games active to date, thus avoiding compromising the entire market. Even if the insiders, probably, would have wished for something more, such as an “amnesty” on ticket redemptions or ad hoc transition period for this type of devices (which ended up in the eye of the storm for some years now and put into the scales by some regional laws): but for an intervention of this kind the intervention of the legislator – who didn’t arrive – would have been necessary, and not of the regulator, who can add nothing to the indications of the law.

However, from a first interpretation of the new provision just released by the administration, a rather clear and complete picture emerges, which aims to safeguard the pure entertainment market, trying to create new opportunities and granting all possible flexibility to avoid the disappearance of this kind of games, which in fact represent the only real alternative to the (commonly called) “gambling”.

As is known, in fact, the new legal provisions on the sector, which had forced the Agenzia to issue and implement the new approval and distribution rules, provided for the entry into force of the new administrative regime starting from the middle of the current year: with the official expiration date of the previous certification rules set at the beginning of 2022. Starting from this date, games that don’t comply with the new technical rules will no longer be able to be distributed. A situation that had raised many doubts within the supply chain, with the risk expressed by many operators of seeing the devices currently existing in Italy and still in circulation compromised. The administration has now answered to this doubt, with the latest regulatory provision, providing for the possibility of keeping all the existing devices, only updating the authorizations. For all owners of pure entertainment devices already approved and complying with the compliance features, it will therefore be necessary to declare their existence and location to the administration, to obtain the certificate necessary for the operations. This is valid on a general level, with the only exception of some types of games considered more “at risk” (as they have technical characteristics so they could be used in a fraudolent manner), for which a technical verification must be carried out.

OLD GAMES ARE SAFE – Not only. With the new rules, the administration also “saves” the devices authorized for installation even before 2003. Thus allowing to safeguard even the “vintage” forms of entertainment, which can be represented by the old “arcade” (like the old Pac- Man) or by pinball machines from previous years, which can remain where they are until December, the 31st, 2021. After that, from January, the 1st, 2022, only devices that comply with the new technical specifications can be installed. However, they may be subject to a (simplified) certification procedure as early as the next few weeks. Through this solution, therefore, it will be possible to keep even the most “ancient” kind of games in business, even in the long term, thus also allowing those forms of entertainment venues that are having success around the world, such as the so-called “Bar Arcades”, where you can find vintage or old-time gaming offers.

NEW TYPES OF VENUES – And speaking of new forms of gaming and new venues, also the other changes compared to the past introduced by the new AdM rule should be noted. With the birth of a “new” kind of license (ex article 86 of Tulps), which opens the doors also to “environments dedicated” to pure entertainment. Until last month, in fact, we needed to obtain a license ex article 86, with which the possibility of installing Awps was also automatically granted, to open an “old-fashioned” arcade, or the “venues specifically set for the development of lawful gaming and equipped with automatic, semi-automatic or electronic amusement and entertainment devices, as well as any other mechanical devices such as, for example, billiards, table footballs, pinball machines or juke-boxes;”, as per the previous definition. On the contrary, with the new regulation “venues exclusively dedicated to gaming with devices without cash winning” are added to all the previous types of venues (bars, restaurants, newsstands, beach resorts, clubs, hotels and so on). This means that who requires a license for an arcade will be able to declare that he only plays pure entertainment gaming within its premises. For a clear declaration of intent that applies to both authorities and visitors: in perfect opposition to the “no-slot sticker” introduced by some regional laws (and even national ones, for those subjects who don’t want to host slots in their places. However, this is not a mere formal label, as in this kind of premises, together with the “public gaming rooms specifically set up for the development of lawful gaming” and the “authorized traveling show activities” and no other, it will be possible to install “all kinds of devices” without winning. Including, therefore, those types such as ticket redemptions which, on the contrary, can’t stay in other “mixed” premises, such as those responsible for administration, catering or other main activity. Among the further news, moreover, there is also that of the new limit of devices without cash winning, which set the maximum number of devices to be set inside any type of authorized venue, based on the size. Also overcoming the limit previously imposed in bars to host at least one device without cash winning next to the slot machines.

WAITING FOR THE GUIDELINES – Now only the guidelines are awaited to complete the framework of the “new” Italian Amusement sector, that the administration will have to issue by next July to establish the approval criteria to which the certification bodies must comply to authorize the devices starting from next year. And from this further path, other opportunities and gaming forms may also arise: such as the remote interconnection of arcades, which could allow a new form of entertainment, at least on some games, which could allow competitions between players who are in different cities or even countries. A form that could pave the way for new videogame competitions, that are increasingly widespread and popular in the world, even in arcades, and open other scenarios for other games, such as for example in pinball machines: this played at a competitive level too, but on spot. While now we could also introduce “live” challenges, but remotely played.

In this sense, therefore, AdM’s review of the rules of entertainment opens up new scenarios and opportunities: despite the critical note regarding ticket redemptions, which continue to remain in the limbo in which they had already been for some time, at least until the end of year. Continuing to focus on the tolerance of the legislator and/or on that sort of “non-aggression” pact never written (and sometimes violated), by virtue of which this kind of games has continued to survive over time, albeit in a reduced version. But on this point we could not expect an intervention by the Agenzia, while a primary legislative intervention would continue to be necessary, as could be the idea of an amnesty, already evaluated in the past. The fact is, however, that this time it is a matter of resisting for a few months, and then obtaining full legitimacy, through the new certification rules that will come into force from January, 2022.