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Italy Flag


Italy has had a long history with gambling, and it has existed in many forms over the centuries. It actually dates way back to the days of the Roman Empire, when the game that preceded today’s backgammon beca,e popular amongst the legionnaires. At the time, the game was known as Ludus Duodecim Scriptorum, and it is mainly due to the Romans that the game spread throughout Europe. The first ever gambling house in Italy was opened up in 1638, which was called Ridotto. It was a government sanctioned establishment, with the authorities aiming to control the industry. Admission to the gambling house was free, but only rich people could afford to play any of the games there due to the high stakes. The games played within were biribi, which resembled lottery, and bassetta.

The word ‘casino’ is actually of Italian origin as well, as due to Ridotto closing in 1774, there was a big boom in the amount of people playing in closed clubs. These clubs were given the name of ‘casinos’. Throughout much of the 1900s, the Italian population mostly frowned upon the pastime of gambling, and this was possibly due to strong associations between gambling and the mafia, who have been tied to illegal clubs in the country in the past. Over the last few decades, gambling has once again regained its popularity in Italy though. Only recently have certain types of gambling been made legal there, having spent many years being completely against the law.

However, today, sports betting is considered to be skill-based, and is therefore a legal pastime. However, even though this is the case, the government only allowed a handful of state-backed operators to provide such services in the beginning. It would probably be the same today had a European Commission investigation not forced the law to change in 2006. Legislation was brought in at this time to legalise certain other games of skill, as well as open up its gambling market to bookmakers licensed outside of the Italian borders. Afterwards, various other forms of gambling were made legal, with poker initially permitted in tournament form in 2007, and cash games and video poker being made lawful in 2010.

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The Online Story

Because of the EU investigation of 2006, Italy was forced to liberalise its online gambling market. The reason behind the investigation was due to the extremely strict laws in the country, which prohibited even legitimate and licensed European gambling operators to offer their online services within. At the time, only the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) and the National Horse Breeders Enhancement Society (UNIRE) were allowed to arrange sports betting offline and online. Also as this time, the blacklist of websites  which did not have Italian licences and should have been blocked contained 621 websites, which included sites run by operators licensed in other EU countries. The country violated EU Directive 98/34/EC with this list, as they did not inform the EC about the list.

Once the EC brought forth their infringement proceedings against Italy, the authorities in the country notified the Commission of the amendments to the gambling law in 2009. The law, which came in to operation in March of 2010, allowed foreign operators the ability to solicit Italian residents, provided they are holders of a domestic licence in the first instance. Today, companies within Italy as well as those based outside of the country’s borders are able to provide online gambling games to citizens of the country.

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Licensing and Regulations in Italy

In order for companies outside of Italy to be able to offer online gambling services, a licence must be obtained by the operator. To qualify for such, evidence must be provided to ensure that they meet certain requirements, including financial, technical, social and other aspects of the business. These criteria include:

  • The ability to maintain games in Europe with a turnover of no less than €1,500,000 in the last two years
  • To function at a high technical level, offering up stable, secure and easy-to-use services
  • To be founded as a capital society
  • To have honest and trustworthy administration members
  • To have an official residence and technical support in one of the several EU countries
  • To pay €350,000 to Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato (AAMS) for technical management, administration and supervision

The total number of licences able to be offered by the AAMS is limited to a total of 200.

Since the introduction of the new laws, Italy has become the biggest gambling market in Europe, although a significant gap has opened up between the different forms of gambling in the country. Horse racing saw a decline of 17% in turnover in 2011, while the online poker sector has also seen a big drop, with revenue down by about a third in 2013. These figures could force the Italian government to reconsider their tournament buy-ins and the maximum betting limits allowed at virtual tables.

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