Italy loosens sports betting restrictions, gets tough with internet cafés

Italy’s gaming regulator has lengthened the leash it holds on its licensed online sports betting operators.

Italian gaming regulator AAMS recently announced it would allow licensed sports betting operators more independence to settle certain types of wagers starting in March 2016. However, the Easter Bunny has come early and AAMS has now told operators they can enjoy their new freedoms immediately.

For years, AAMS strictly limited what types of wagers its licensed operators could offer, while results of these wagers had to be certified by AAMS before operators could pay winning bettors. AAMS lightened up a little in 2013, allowing operators to offer a wider variety of wagers, but still required operators to wait for AAMS certification on the old list of betting types.

Operators had long complained that AAMS was slow as molasses in certifying the results of certain wagers, like lower-tier league results. This delayed operators’ ability to pay winning bettors, which made the offerings of international operators not holding an Italian license appear more attractive to Italian bettors.

AAMS has also given operators the green light to offer even more exotic bet types, with a few restrictions; for instance, bets would require a certifiable outcome. Operators will also be prohibited from offering bets based on the outcome of court proceedings, the private lives of individuals, or on events that run contrary to public morality and public order. So basically, Paddy Power’s entire prop bet menu.

The Italian government recently published its draft budget law, which included a number of gambling changes. For one, the government plans to issue 120 new online gaming licenses via a process that would launch by July 31, 2016. The licenses will cost €200k apiece and will be valid for six-year terms.

With the country’s land-based betting licenses set to expire en masse next summer, Italy plans to award 10k new betting shop licenses, with bidding started at €32k apiece, as well as 5k ‘betting corner’ licenses, at a starting price of €18k apiece. DLA Piper attorney Giulio Coraggio explains that betting corners differ from betting shops in that a betting shop’s primary function is gaming, while a betting corner can be a betting kiosk in (for example) a tobacconist. The licenses would be valid for nine-year terms.

Italy is also planning a tougher approach for so-called CTDs, the legally grey internet cafés with terminals that connect to international online gambling sites, like the kind involved in this summer’s crackdown on the Malta-licensed Betuniq brand.

Italy had given CTD operators fair warning that they would be forced to apply for licenses by June 30, 2016 if they wished to continue operation. Under the new draft budget, foreign operators who control a network of CTDs that fail to obtain the necessary licenses would be viewed as having established a permanent tax presence in Italy, which would require financial institutions to deduct 25% of the value of each transaction.

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