The government crisis blocks all the work needed for Italy and for public gaming: in addition to flat tax, Vat increase and €80, waiting for reorganization, Awps and tenders.
It is impossible to plan economic choices, for Italian families and businesses, today: everything becomes harder than usual due to the government crisis, which doesn’t seem meant to be immediately resolved. It is for individuals, to whom the “flat tax” is promised for more than a year, risking, on the contrary, to obtain “in exchange” an increase in Vat from 2020, in addition to losing the €80 bonus. But companies are also in trouble, forced to define their budgets for 2020 without exactly knowing which and how many taxes they will have to pay since next year, with various concessions on the line, such as super-amortization. However, the situation is even worse for gaming companies, for which in addition to all the problems and difficulties common to every type of economic activity, there are also a series of specific problems that will remain unsolved. Despite being urgent and crucial for the sector.
THE AWAITED REFORM – Starting from the reorganization of the sector: announced for the first time by the current government through the Dignity decree, in July 2018 (despite it has already been promised and announced by the previous governments and even “touched” with the agreement reached in the unified conference in 2017, and never implemented), and promised within the next six months, only to be postponed who knows how long, until the announcement of a few days ago of the undersecretary with responsibility for games, who just in the period of closure of the chambers (and on the eve of the crisis) announced that he was working on a Single Code of the Games, which at this point it is not possible to known what happens to it, waiting for a new majority at Palazzo Chigi.
THE ADVERTISING ISSUE – The reorganization of the sector is not the only measure ordered by the government on the gaming sector through the Dignity decree. On the contrary, the most sensational (and discussed) political initiative carried out by the government through the July 2018 decree was the introduction of a total ban on advertising with which any form of advertising, promotion and communication of gaming, even indirect, has been forbidden. In addition, any form of sponsorship of sports events and other types of events is prohibited. A decision that is jeopardizing publishing companies, large and small media and creating important deficit into the coffers of sports clubs, which ask the government to intervene for more than a year now, but in vain. After the Guidelines published by the Autorità garante delle comunicazioni last April, in an attempt to make the partially unachievable rules applicable, a new debate was unleashed with accusations by the 5 stelle political leader Luigi Di Maio, who spoke of “softened watered” by AgCom, promising a new restrictive intervention, by decree. Announcing a “Dignity decree bis”, of which there is no trace. Beyond the rumors coming from Via Venti Settembre relating to the drafting of an “explanatory newsletter” referring to the ban on advertising, of which we are waiting to know the process. Government (and Parliament) permitting.
THE SLOTS ISSUE – Among the unsolved issues waiting for an intervention abou gaming, there is also the entire front of gaming machines and, in particular, the so-called “AwpRs”: that is, the new generation of remote devices, whose debut is expected on the market, in theory, starting from next year. Reading the law, the new slots “with remote activation” must be produced and marketed starting from January 2020, since from that same date authorizations relating to the current generation of slot machines will no longer be released. But it is a shame that to date not even the smallest details relating to this kind of entertainment machines are known, with the decree of technical rules expected for months (indeed, for years by now), whose publication must also be anticipated even going to Brussels, at the Business Department of the European Commission, for a period of at least three months, as required by the EU Directive on technical assets circulating within the Union. Taking into account that, according to games manufacturers, it takes at least six months for the start of production of a new generation of slots (and at least a year, according to network concessionaires), the risk is that of a total block of the sales for producers starting next January, if an extension of the current authorisation for the current slots won’t be introduced. Or at least if the process of introduction of the Awprs won’t be accelerated.
THE REFORM OF FOOTBALL POOL – Among the surprise moves made by the yellow-green executive with regard to public gaming is the one related to the football pool, with the announcement of a restyling of the oldest of the winning games that suddenly arrived in the first months of th government, immediately after the same majority had declared war to gambling. Instead, the government’s decision was to increase resources for sport, also focusing on the choice, defined as “revolutionary” to relaunch contests to prediction “that don’t involve risks related to gambling, such as the football pool”, modifying the percentage for the prize pool by providing that a portion of the proceeds is assigned to the Sport e Salute Spa (formerly Coni Servizi) company. The process has already been started and implementation measures are expected.
RECEIPTS LOTTERY – It was the other big news announced by the government, in the most general astonishment. After previous attempts by various governments, the one led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and openly hostile to gambling, announced without much trouble the launch of a new and further Lottery: that of receipts, which is preparing to make its debut in January 2020. In theory. According to what leaked by the Mef, the new lottery has already been settled and has already multiplied the chances of winning already before being born. Compared to the aseptic project leaked from the previous law that rather blandly introduced the new form of gaming as a mere instrument to combat tax evasion, from the latest rumors it seems to take shape a real “gambling”, also rich in appeal. To the point that a progressive development of the game has been foreseen which will see the transition to weekly draws, starting from 2021, after a first year of bets characterized by monthly and annual draws. But that’s not all. Yes, because every month three prizes will be drawn, of the value of €50,000 for the first drawn, 30,000 for the second one and 10,000 for the third one. While the annual draw will see a first prize with a value of even one million euros. The two agencies involved are working on the drafting of the regulation: Entrate e dogane -Monopoli, in view of the lottery debut set for next year. Except other changes.
BETTING DECREE – Among the most sensational initiatives of the current government about gambling, there is also the failure to publish the new regulation on bets that should have ratify the introduction of two innovative parties in betting, such as the so-called “cash out” and the mistake in the shares. After months of tests made by the Agenzia delle dogane e dei monopoli together with Sogei and the concessionaires, the trial period that should have been followed by the actual implementation of the rules expired, while the failure to publish in the Official Journal the ministerial decree signed by Giovanni Tria interrupted the process, following the instructions of the Ministry of Economy. And now we are waiting for developments, after the huge investments made by the companies on the suggestion of the legislator to implement the new methods, in order to make the legal offer competitive with respect to the illegal one.
TERRITORIAL ISSUE AND CONCESSIONS – Among the various open fronts relating to public gaming, the most important one, however, remains that of the so-called Territorial issue: that is, the clashbetween the central State and the local, regional or municipal rules, which have restrictive action on the installations of gaming products despite the rule of law still in force in the sector. Without a solution to the conflict, by virtue of which a huge controversy is still pending in the main administrative courts of Italy, it is impossible to proceed with the issuing of calls for tenders for the renewal of concessions for physical points of sale of bets and bingo, currently extended in return of payment. An unsustainable situation and not only for the insiders, as it could lead to problems with Europe and cause, at a theoretical level, even an infringement procedure against our country.
Well, all these situations, of a more or less urgent nature but extremely necessary in all cases, therefore remain at the mercy of events and waiting for developments from Parliament, that must decide about the fall of the current Executive. Although the current majority turned out to be decidedly hostile towards the gaming sector, it is clear that a change of government and new possible elections would involve an unavoudable delay for any issue, certainly not considered a priority with respect to other needs of the country. It is therefore difficult to indicate which situation is better for the gaming industry than those that can be identified in this crisis situation.