EGBA raises concerns over Italy’s increased online gambling license fees proposal

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has expressed concern over Italy’s proposed online gambling license fees, warning that the increase could exacerbate the country’s existing black-market problem.

The Italian decree, currently under discussion in the Council of Ministers, introduces significant changes to the online gambling sector, primarily focusing on the cost of license fees. Reports suggest the proposed license fee could reach €7 million ($7.67 million), surpassing fees in other EU Member States by a wide margin. This represents a 35-fold increase from the 2018 fee of €200,000 ($219,198) and triples a previously suggested €2.5 million ($2.74 million) fee, which was never implemented.

EGBA emphasizes that such a substantial hike in license fees could lead to severe consequences, deterring new market entrants and potentially forcing existing licensees, especially smaller operators, out of the market. The association predicts a drastic reduction in the number of licensed operators from the current 91 to a mere 15-20, contributing to a significant expansion of Italy’s online gambling black market, currently valued at over €1 billion ($1.09 billion) annually.

Anticipated revenues from the proposed licenses range between €105-140 million ($115-153 million) for the Italian state. EGBA suggests reverting to the previously unused tender proposal of €2.5 million, without limiting factors, could yield similar or higher tax revenue without compromising market competitiveness.

EGBA Secretary General Maarten Haijer stated: “The proposed increase in licensing fees is unparalleled and unheard of, it would make Italy the most expensive country in Europe to obtain an online gambling license.” He further urged the Council of Ministers to reconsider the proposal, emphasizing that it could worsen Italy’s online gambling black market problem instead of addressing it.

“Together with the other restrictions in its gambling market, such as the local advertising ban, this proposed fee hike will make Italy a closed shop for new market entrants and lead to an exodus of existing licensees,” pointed out Haijer. “This also raises concerns on compliance with EU law.”

The association reaffirms its commitment to working with Italian authorities to develop a license fee framework that supports a well-regulated and sustainable online gambling market, prioritizing player protection and ensuring a level playing field for all operators.

Additionally, EGBA calls for revoking the existing advertising ban, which it says is currently exploited by black market operators, to allow regulated advertising that protects minors and vulnerable groups.