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Italy was one of the first European countries to adopt the regulatory framework to offer and promote online gambling, having established itself as one of the key markets for this type of activity in Europe. However, when  the current government came to power, this situation was turned on its head, particularly regarding advertising for gaming operators.

In July 2018, Decree Law 87/2018, known as the “Dignity Decree,” was approved. Based on the decree’s initial wording, the prohibition on gaming companies to sponsor clubs and sporting activities would come into force on January 1, 2019. This decree establishes an absolute prohibition of all forms of gambling advertising in Italy, directly or indirectly, and through any means or communication platform, including sporting, cultural and artistic events, TV and radio broadcasts, newspapers and periodicals, general publications, posters and the internet.

Although the decree will prohibit companies from sponsoring gambling from the start of the year, on January 14, the Italian government announced that first- division Italian football teams (A series) would be able to keep their sponsors until mid July 2019. From then on, there would be a blanket ban on gambling advertising in Italy, given that from July 14 onwards, advertising contracts signed before the decree’s publication will be considered automatically discharged.

Thus, the highest ranking Italian football teams would have an additional six months to plan for the lack of substantial inflows of cash that come from sponsoring by gaming companies. If there is breach of the prohibition, the Italian communications authority, responsible for imposing the corresponding sanctions, will be able to set fines of up to 5% of the sponsorship or advertising value and, under no circumstances, will impose a fine of less than €50,000 per breach.

It is still unknown what the consequences will be of prohibiting gaming operators from sponsoring Italian football. The Italian regulation regarding gambling advertising, which is undoubtedly the strictest in Europe, has set a precedent that the other EU States could follow, as Belgium has done by adopting a series of regulations that prohibit certain forms of gambling advertising, such as restricting times when it can be carried out or prohibiting advertisements from showing sport betting during live transmissions of sports.

We must remember that, in Spain, there is an ongoing debate as to whether to adopt specific (restrictive) regulation for gambling advertising. This is a topic that we will continue to provide information about and, as is clear, there is still a lot to to play for.

Authors: Alicia Costas and Albert Agustinoy

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