Italian Football Uneasy with the Gambling Ads Ban
Italy’s Council of Ministers approved the Decreto Dignita policy July 16, which effectively bans gambling advertisements in the country. This move, which has been contested since it was first suggested, was met with a lot of criticism and resistance by the country’s top soccer league.
A Ban on All Gambling-Related Ads to Fight Addiction
The new policy has been designed to ban all ads related to gambling and sports betting in the country. These ads will apply to all media outlets registered in Italy, as well as Italian websites and other advertising platforms.
The Decreto Dignita has been formulated to curb addiction to gambling in Italy. According to official statistics, Italians spent approximately €102 billion on gambling in 2017 alone. This was a 6 percent increase from 2016 and a whopping 142 percent increase from 2007. Reports also show that there are more than 1 million Italians suffering from gambling-related problems. Half of these people are reportedly unemployed and take to gambling as a way to make quick cash.
Millions of Euros at Stake
Voicing its concerns, the Lega Serie A, the top soccer league in Italy, pointed out that the soccer industry stands to lose millions of Euros in revenue as a result of this ban. This is because the new law, in addition to banning the ads, also prohibits sports clubs from carrying sponsors in the betting industry. This is expected to have a colossal impact as more than half of Italy’s soccer clubs have sponsorship deals with betting companies.
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) reported that betting companies spend more than €120 million on sponsoring Italian soccer leagues and other sports clubs each year. Additionally, betting operators run ads on pitchside screens in all stadiums around the country and sponsor T-shirts and other gear for more than 45 percent of all the soccer clubs.
However, it is not just the soccer industry that stands to lose from the proposed ban. TV stations, Italian websites, and other advertising platforms will also lose revenue that these ads could generate. Gambling ads are especially lucrative during the soccer season and generate millions of Euros for advertising platforms. The government is also set to lose some revenue generated from taxation of these ads.
A Wrong Approach to a Valid Problem
While soccer leagues agree that gambling may be getting out of hand in Italy, they also point out that the latest measure by the government may not be effective.
To start with, the ban cannot be implemented effectively because most Italians will still see soccer ads on the Internet via foreign websites and media platforms. Secondly, soccer leagues argue that it will only lead to further unemployment because soccer employs thousands of people, and sponsorship from betting operators account for a huge chunk of their revenue. Soccer clubs would be forced to lay off many workers without access to this revenue.
However, it is the fact that the ban may worsen the gambling problem that should be of great concern. Gambling ads direct most Italian gamblers to betting operators that are regulated by the government. Therefore, banning the ads could lead many gamblers to foreign and illegal betting platforms that may exploit them, further worsening a bad situation.
Discussions on the Table
The Decreto Dignita is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2019. Before this happens, however, soccer leagues hope to convince the government to review the latest law in a bid to prevent the aforementioned complications that will arise from the ban. These leagues have promised to come up with alternative solutions to the gambling problem in the country.
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