Italy: The gaming revolution of 2016!

2016 will be a year leading to considerable changes in the Italian gaming market. The award of new online gaming and betting shop licenses together with the consolidation among operators might cause a relevant reshuffling of the market positions.

The Italian gaming market will face some interesting time in 2016 as an interesting coincidence of events will take place.

Award of new online gaming licenses

The possibility to apply for a new online gaming license in Italy has been restricted for almost 4 years so far. But since the so called Bersani online gaming licenses will expire in mid-2016, the current options on the table are

  • Either the expiring online gaming licenses will be extended up to the expiry date of 2021 of the more recent licenses
  • Or a new application procedure will be initiated and both current licensees and new entrants will be able to apply for a license.

The first option seems more convenient for the gaming regulator. But risks to be challenged for lack of compliance with EU principles might dissuade the regulator to go through this route. At the same time the current impossibility to apply for a new online gaming license is creating a second hand market of online gaming licenses which seems at least awkward.

I am confident that the regulator would appreciate some requests from the industry for the reopening of the licensing window to understand whether there is an actual interest to that. Therefore the market itself shall give some inputs to the regulator.

Betting shop market revolution

All the current betting shop as well as the CTDs that cured their status will have their license/authorization expiring in mid-2016. This means that a potential application procedure for the award of around 15,000 licenses shall be initiated. But the available licenses might be even more if the regulator will plan to further reduce the black market.

This might be a massive opportunity not only for land based operators, including new entrants, but also for online operators. Indeed, some “independent” betting shops already declared that they will be re-branded with the trademark of a major online gaming operator.

Consolidation in the gaming market

The recent consolidation between both land-based and online operators is likely to lead to interesting developments. Competitors might not afford to be left behind which will lead to further consolidation. But it is possible to learn from past examples that not all mergers actually work out and therefore it will be interesting to see who made the best deal.

At the same time we shall see whether new entrants will be able to emerge differentiating their offering from the crowd or they will be acquired before being able to get any leadership position.

Very interesting time anyway!