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Just last week the Italian gaming news agency Agimeg reported that Italy’s gambling regulator had so far received “less than 10 applications” for the new licenses, which cover mostly all gambling activities – sports and race betting, casino, poker, exchange betting, virtual sports, etc.
The licenses cost €200k apiece and are valid through 2022. Applicants must already hold an online gambling license in a European Union member state and boast annual turnover of at least €1.5m over the past two years. If applicants can’t meet these standards, they have to put up an additional €1.5m bank guarantee.
My latest interviewee is among the leading lawyers in Italy. Quirino Mancini is Partner and Global Head of Gaming & Gambling Practice at Tonucci & Partners.
Thank you for accepting this interview. My first question would be what are your expectations from the call for bids from online gaming operators? How will this change the Italian gaming industry?
Quirino: Judging by the first enquiries I have gathered since the announcement of the new licence tender, it would seem that notwithstanding the Italian market is already packed, there still are operators willing to enter it. This applies not only to B2C operators but to B2B ones too, even though unlike, most European regulated markets, the Italian licensing model does not require B2B operators to hold a local licence in order to offer their services, so if the trend is confirmed I reckon the Italian market will be somewhat re-shaped as a result of the advent of the “hybrid” operators (B2C+B2B).
The launch of the bidding process was expected much earlier. What hindered the launch, and does this have any effect on the process of bidding?
Quirino: The only reason for an otherwise inexplicable delay in calling the remote gaming licences tender is the quite populistic and very often ill-informed political pressure, notably across the whole parliamentary board, to restrict the gaming offer. Unfortunately the local gaming industry has so far proven unable to pull their acts together in terms of putting together a consistent, coordinated and effective effort to somehow redress the mounting wave of discredit and bias thrown at operators who are fully legal, legitimate, licensed and do pay taxes in Italy as if instead they were a bunch of offshore-based pirates ripping and abusing the poor Italian consumers.
There are several online gambling licenses which have already entered the Italian iGaming market and now only require the renewal of their licenses. My question is what is your opinion how difficult this process will be for the rest of the applicants?
Quirino: The licence tender process is all but difficult provided the prospective applicants duly meet the eligibility requirements and take timely action filing-wise. The real challenges for them, once licensed, are (i) going live in less than one full year bearing in mind the many technical peculiarities and specificities of the Italian remote gaming model that notably entails a 24/7 connection of the operator’s servers with the central control system ran by the regulator, (ii) having a good product fit and also customised for the local players, and (iii) having a clear vision for an effective and creative marketing strategy.
The delay in the online gaming licensing might have had an effect on the shared online poker liquidity agreement signed by Italy as well. What is your opinion regarding this problem?
Quirino: I believe that when it comes to shared international liquidity, the more newcomer operators join the party, the better it is for the players in terms of creating a sufficiently large pool.
It has recently been announced that Italy will not join the official start of the project. Will you, please share your ideas related to this issue?
Quirino: On 4 March 2018 general elections will be held in Italy. As already mentioned in a previous reply, at this time there definitely is too much focus, bias, propaganda, mis-information and pressure surrounding the gaming business for any sensible politician to want to be seen as the one who facilitated the offer of more gaming services to Italians, and because regulators take instructions and directions from the government and the parliament, you may easily figure out the rest of the story
To meet Quirino in person, make sure you register and attend Prague Gaming Summit 2018, held on the 29th of March at Andel’s by Vienna House Prague.
Quirino Mancini is the global head of the gaming and gambling practice at Tonucci & Partners(www.tonucci.com), a top-ten Italian general practice firm with offices in Rome, Milan, Brescia, Padua, Florence, Tirana, Bucharest and Belgrad.
Quirino is one of the leading Italian gaming and gambling lawyers with a specialist practice of almost 20 years. He acts for Italian and foreign-based online and land-based companies operating in the Italian gaming market, advising them on legal, licensing, regulatory, day-to-day compliance and any other operational aspects connected to their activities. He also runs a bespoke matchmaking and business strategy service to provide clients with a customised type of assistance that includes also introduction and facilitation of dealings with the local regulatory authorities, banks as well as scouting and suitability checks on potential business partners.
Quirino is a regular speaker at most international gaming conferences and sits in the editorial board of various sector reviews and magazines.
Co-founder and editor of www.gaminglaw.eu, a pan-European information and commentary portal focusing on legal and regulatory issues under European and national gaming laws.
Secretary and fellow member of the Leadership Committee of the International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL), a worldwide organisation gathering regulators, lawyers and advisors, in-house counsels and educators engaged in the gaming business. Fellow member of the International Association of Gaming Advisors (IAGA)
Source: European Gaming Media and Events