Maarten Haijer, the secretary general of the European Gaming and Betting Association, has blasted Italy’s blanket ban on gambling advertising as impractical and “counterproductive”.
As reported earlier this week by iGamingBusiness.com, Italy’s Council of Ministers has approved a ban on gambling advertising from January 1, 2019.
The ban will apply to all gambling-related products and services across all media platforms – including television, websites and radio – and sports clubs will also be prohibited from carrying sponsors from the industry.
It later emerged that existing gambling sponsorship deals will only be allowed to run until June 30 next year at the latest, although a final cut-off date is yet to be confirmed.
“One of the important benefits of gambling advertising is that it directs Italian customers towards those gambling operators who are licensed to operate and comply with the rules in Italy,” Haijer (pictured) said.
“Without advertising black market gambling will increase – with customers accessing websites which are not licensed in Italy and operate outside the regulated framework, including the legal protective safeguards for consumers. No other country in Europe currently bans gambling advertising precisely for this very reason.”
The new legislation, dubbed the ‘Dignity Decree’, has already been criticised by industry stakeholders, LOGiCO, a trade body representing the interests of online operators in Italy, and Lega Serie A, which runs the country’s top football division.
Haijer added that a ban on gambling advertising will have a significant impact on Italian sports, with operators currently contributing about €120m (£106m/$141m) towards sports teams and leagues in the country every year.
“This sponsorship is important to these teams and will be put in jeopardy,” he added. “That is why we have already seen a strong reaction from the Serie A to the proposal.
“We would also question the practicality of introducing a total ban on advertising as a result of the cross-border nature of the internet and television. Italian citizens will continue to see gambling advertising, except that those ads will advertise websites that are not licensed in Italy.
“We strongly support measures to clamp down on irresponsible gambling advertising in order to protect consumers – but a total ban on advertising is counterproductive to this. The government should instead focus on encouraging responsible gambling advertising which sufficiently directs consumers to the regulated operators and at the same time does not entice problem gamblers or young people to gamble.”