The Italian government banned gambling advertising, what does the law say?

Written on 15 Aug 2018

The fight against ludopathy is a high priority on the agenda of the Italian government. The first step that the new government has taken to tackle the spread of gambling has been the introduction of an advertising ban for gambling products and services and games with cash winnings, included in a Law Decree, which is referred to as the “Dignity Decree”, effective July 14, 2018. However, this new law may also affect e-sports tournaments, which their operators certainly would not perceive as “gambling” in a traditional sense.

Background

After less than a month from the entry into force of the Dignity Decree, on August 7, 2018, the Parliament ratified the Dignity Decree, which was published in the Official Gazette on August 11. The text of the Dignity Decree as published on August 11 contains some differences vs. the text that came into force on July 14.

However, now that the Parliament has ratified the government’s decision to bad gambling advertising we can safely say that the ban is there to stay and that gambling service providers and advertising service providers will have to take steps to ensure compliance with the new legal framework.

The Dignity Decree’s provision against gambling

In its final version, the Dignity Decree takes several measures against gambling. In particular, the Law Decree:

  1. Effective July 14, 2018, pprohibits any form of advertising relating to betting and games with cash winnings as well as gambling;
  2. Effective January 1, 2019, prohibits (i) the sponsorship of events, activities, programs, products or services and (ii) all other forms of communication with a promotional content, which are related to betting and other forms of games with cash winnings as well as gambling;
  3. Provides sanctions in relation to violations of the prohibitions under (1) and (2) above;
  4. Provides that instant lottery tickets and amusement machines must include messages in Italian with warnings of the risks associated with gambling;
  5. Requires the use of an age verification document for access to amusement machines is to prevent minors from accessing these games;
  6. Provides that municipalities may issue the “No Slot” identifying logos to public establishments or private clubs which remove or declare that are not willing to install amusement machines, in order to further discourage the spread of slot machines in public establishments.

What kind of advertising falls into the ban and what advertising is still allowed?

The wording of the advertising ban is very broad, in fact it prohibits any form of advertising, even indirect, relating to betting and other forms of games with cash winnings, through any means, including sporting, cultural or artistic events, television or radio broadcasts, daily and periodical press, publications in general, billboards and any cyber, digital or electronic means, including social media. The wording of the ban is in fact so broad that it can potentially impact non only on in-game advertising but also on e-sports events.

However, the ban should not affect:

  • Advertising agreements which are in the course of being performed at the date of entry into force of the Decree (i.e. July 14, 2018). These agreements shall remain regulated by the regulatory regime which was in force prior to the entry into force of the Decree until their expiration but will become unenforceable after one year of the entry into force of this Decree (i.e. July 14, 2019).
  • Advertising of national deferred prize-drawing lotteries which are expressly chosen each year by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance.

Which are the sanctions?

The owner of the means used or of the site featuring illegal gambling advertising and the organizer of the event or activity, which are found to be in violation of the ban, may have to face an administrative fine equal to 20% of the value of the sponsorship or advertising campaign but with a minimum of € 50,000 per each violation.