EGBA: revise Italy advertising ban to combat black market gambling

Published by Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, the report estimates €18.50bn is bet with unlicensed gambling sites each year. This, the report says, represents approximately 75% of all black market bets in Italy.

EGBA estimates this to mean almost €1.00bn in gross gaming revenue is being lost to black market sites each year. This is equivalent to the combined regulated online gambling revenue of eight other European Union (EU) countries – Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Slovenia. 

EGBA acknowledges that Italy’s Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM) has already taken action on that matter. This year alone, ADM has blocked over 9,800 unlicensed sites, already 400 more than in all of 2022.

However, EGBA remains concerned at the number of Italian players using unlicensed sites, especially those located outside of the EU. As these sites do not offer the same, or any, consumer protection, this places players at higher risk of harm.

EGBA says revised adverts ban could reduce black market rates

As such, EGBA is calling on Italian authorities to do more to raise awareness among consumers about these risks. 

This, it said, could include revising Italy’s blanket ban on gambling advertising. At present, there is a ban on all forms of gambling adverts in Italy. However, EGBA says lack of awareness of approved operators could be a factor in high black market gambling rates.

“The significant size of Italy’s online black market is concerning, yet it is not surprising given that Italy has one of Europe’s strictest advertising regimes for its licensed gambling companies,” EGBA secretary-general Maarten Haijer said.

“The country’s ban on advertising for licensed gambling operators is clearly favouring the black market. Without a sufficient level of advertising, there is no real way for Italians to tell the difference between a gambling website which is licensed in Italy – and applies the country’s consumer protection rules – and one that is not. 

“It is evident that enforcement action against black market operators is not sufficient. The government needs to revise its advertising rules for gambling to ensure Italian citizens can be well-informed about the licensed websites in the country.”

Italy footballers face betting charges

The report comes as Italy faces something of a crisis within its national football team. Several players are reported to have breached rules on betting.

This week, the Italian Federal Prosecutor’s Office handed Juventus footballer Nicolò Fagioli a seven-month suspension for betting on football.

Reports about Fagioli emerged last week, claiming he placed bets with an unlicensed gambling site. Italian Football Federation (FIGC) rules state athletes found betting on the sport can face bans of up to three years.

Two more Italian national team players, Newcastle United’s Sandro Tonali and Aston Villa player Nicolo Zaniolo were later revealed to be under investigation and were withdrawn from national team selection.

This week, Newcastle confirmed Tonali is subject to investigation by the Italian Prosecutor’s Office and FIGC in relation to illegal betting activity.

“Sandro is fully engaging with the investigation and will continue to cooperate with all relevant authorities,” Newcastle said. “He and his family will continue to receive the club’s full support.

“Due to this ongoing process, Sandro and Newcastle United are unable to offer further comment at this time.”

Mississippi sports betting handle surpasses $50m in September

Total sports betting handle in September reached $51.6m, up 19.7% from $43.1m in Mississippi last year. The monthly figure was also 141.1% ahead of $21.4m in August this year.

As for revenue, this amounted to $8.1m, a decline of 8.0% from $8.8m in September 2022. However, the total was 200.0% higher than the $2.7m generated in August.

Coastal casinos the place to be for sports betting in Mississippi

Consumers again favoured sports betting at coastal casinos in Mississippi. These venues took a total of $33.5m in sports wagers and posted $5.8m in revenue.

Meanwhile, central casinos processed $12.3m in sports bets and reported revenue of $1.7m. In addition, players spent $5.8m betting on sports at northern casinos, with revenue at these venues reaching $698,827.

In terms of what players were betting on in September, football was the sport of choice. This was due to the start of the new NFL season, which kicked off early in the month.

Bettors wagered $19.3m on football at costal casinos, $5.9m at central venues and $3.4m at northern casinos.

Record igaming revenue drives Pennsylvania market growth in September

Total revenue in September was ahead of $448.5m in the same month last year. The figure was also 4.2% ahead of the $457.2m generated in Pennsylvania in August this year.

Retail slots remain some way out in front in terms of revenue share generating $199.9m, up 0.7% on last year. A further $75.2m came from physical table games, although this was 7.8% lower than September 2022.

The igaming segment reported the most significant growth in September. Revenue jumped 41.5% to $159.5m, an all-time high for the state, surpassing the previous record of $148.2m set in March.

Online slots revenue hiked 47.3% to $114.7m and internet table games revenue increased 31.7% to $42.4m. However, revenue from online poker slipped 10.4% to $2.4m.

Hollywood Casino at Penn National remains the clear market leader with $64.9m in igaming revenue in September. Valley Forge Casino Resort was again second with $35.4m and Rivers Casino Philadelphia third on $29.2m.

Pennsylvania sports betting revenue continues to decline in September

In contrast, Pennsylvania reported further declines within its sports betting market. Revenue for this segment dropped 27.1% year-on-year to $36.6m, despite handle climbing 12.6% to $726.3m.

Valley Forge and FanDuel reclaimed top spot within the market after slipping to second in August. The partnership heralded $19.1m in revenue from $256.4m in total bets in September.

Hollywood Casino at the Meadows and Barstool, which led the segment in August, placed second with revenue of $8.6m off a $230.5m handle. Parx Casino, partnered with Kambi, was third with $2.2m in revenue from $22.6m in wagers.

As for other gambling in Pennsylvania, video gaming terminal revenue was down 7.2% to $3.2m. In addition, fantasy sports revenue declined 6.6% to $1.8m, with DraftKings leading the segment with $1.3m in revenue.

Operators slapped with fines for regulatory breaches

Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) has issued a series of fines to operators for breaching state regulations. Fines totalling $73,075 were issued to three operators in the state.

Stadium Casino Westmoreland, operator of Live! Casino Pittsburgh, was fined $30,000. This included a $20,000 fine for allowing two self-excluded individuals to enter and gamble at its casino.

An additional $10,000 fine was issued for permitting underage gambling at the casino. The individual was able to access the gaming floor and play slot machines.

Elsewhere, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores was fined $25,000 for not informing the PGCB over ownership structure changes at five of its VGT Truck Stop Establishment locations.

In addition, the PGCB sanctioned Greenwood Gaming and Entertainment, operator of Parx Casino, over a delay in submitting two licence renewal applications. The operator has been ordered to pay $18,075.

Rivers Casino Philadelphia secures licence renewal in Pennsylvania

Also in Pennsylvania, the PGCB unanimously voted to renew the Category 2 stand-alone casino licence of Sugarhouse HSP Gaming, operator of Rivers Casino Philadelphia. The licence has been renewed for an additional five-year period.

Since opening in September 2010, Rivers Casino Philadelphia has generated $4.47bn in gross revenue. The facility offers retail slot machines and table games, as well as sports wagering and igaming. This has led to the state collecting over $1.94bn in tax revenue.

Washington DC: Caesars retains sports betting top spot in September

Spending on sports betting in September amounted to $14.5m, down 25.3% from $19.4m wagered in Washington DC last year. However, this total was 79.0% ahead of $8.1m in August of this year.

In terms of gross gaming revenue, this reached $1.9m. Revenue was 47.2% down from the same month last year but 90.0% ahead of August 2023’s total.

Caesars leads over Gambet in Washington DC

Having taken the lead in Washington DC in August, Caesars kept its place at the front of the market. The operator posted $867,672 in revenue from $5.3m in sports bets.

Gambet, run by the DC Lottery and powered by Intralot, was again second with $588,203 off $5.2m in wagers.

BetMGM was next with $285,127 in revenue and a $2.7m handle. Flutter Entertainment’s FanDuel followed on $128,831 from a total spend of $556,671.

Grand Central and partner Elys Game Technology posted revenue of $98,930 off a $713,916 handle. Propping up the market was Cloakbook, which reported a loss of $34,501 from $55,792 in bets.

Netherlands’ NGR up 85% in 2022

The report is based on 2022 only, as it was the first full calendar year for the Netherlands’ online gambling market.

The country’s market officially opened in October 2021, following the passage and ratification of the much-delayed Remote Gambling Act (KOA). This month marks two years since the market became live. NGR comprises of deposits minus prizes paid out.

NGR for 2022 was up by 85.0% from €2.0bn in 2021. KSA noted that this was due to an increase in both online gambling and land-based play, particularly as Covid-19 pandemic restrictions lifted. Land-based venues were closed in the Netherlands until 25 January 2022, with restrictions still applying until 25 February 2022.

Spending on gambling and advertising

Online casino was one of the Netherlands’ smaller markets in 2022, behind lotteries and land-based gambling. Online casino games accounted for 23% of the market share. Total NGR for casino games was €1.9bn in 2022, making up 56% of the licensed market share.

Sports betting, meanwhile, remained one of the Netherlands’ smallest gambling sectors with 9% market share.

Looking at player behaviour, the average adult in the Netherlands spent an average of €258 on gambling in 2022, compared to €158 in 2021. However, pre-pandemic in 2019 the amount was €221 on average.

In June 2022, KSA introduced a ban on the use of role models in gambling ads. This was followed up by a much stricter ban on a majority of gambling ads in July 2023. KSA estimated that the gambling industry accounts for “several hundred millions of euros” in advertising expenditure.

The report showed that the highest level of ad expenditure on television came from lottery operators in 2022, at 52.4%. Ads from online operators came slightly behind at 40.9% expenditure.

Sports betting boom

KSA also reported that casino games made up €1.9bn of the total NGR in 2022. Country-specific casino games made up €1.1bn. Meanwhile, the number of gaming tables at Holland Casino grew in 2022, ticking up 5.3% to 373.

Last week Holland Casino signed a diversity charter, which has the aim of increasing diversity in the workplace.

Sports betting saw a popularity boom year-on-year in 2022. The report found that sports betting NGR hit €319m in 2022 – up by 262.5%. In total 83% of NGR came from online sports and horse betting in 2022, compared to 17% from land-based betting.

Earlier this month, KSA detailed player behaviour in its fifth online gambling monitoring report. The report revealed a slowdown in market growth, with gross gambling revenue (GGR) growing 8% from January to August compared to 33% growth reported in the previous edition.

Labour peer Lipsey slams affordability checks

Lord Lipsey argued that the checks – as they are currently being contemplated by the Gambling Commission – will work to damage greyhound racing by imposing intrusive checks on high-spend customers, which he argues will then “simply disappear”.

The former Economist’s Bagehot columnist highlighted the voluntary levy on bookmakers which helps support British greyhound racing. The British Greyhound Racing Fund collects the levy. Most bookmakers in the sport pay it as a voluntary contribution.

Greyhound levy supports dog welfare

Lipsey said the majority (51.4%) of money raised by the levy goes towards the British Greyhound Racing Fund (BGRF). Another 19% heads towards regulation, Lipsey continued.

He added that the levy’s total has been declining in real terms for the past decade. The total has fallen in inflation-adjusted figures from £11m in 2012-13 to £8.2m in July 2023.

“Premier Greyhound Racing has no independent evidence on the impact of the proposed crackdown on affordability proposed by the Commission,” said Lipsey. “However, greyhound racing, like horse racing, has some heavy hitter punters who would plausibly be put off betting on greyhounds if they were subject to onerous affordability checks.”

Lipsey pointed to his own experience attempting to place bets as a Politically Exposed Person. He said it took 32 emails being exchanged before he was able to keep his account.

He added that, while he had received assurances from ministers that the checks would be seamless, the Commission’s consultation paper admits 2%-3% of punters may be subject to intrusive checks.

“These will almost by definition be the big punters,” said Lipsey. “Big punters are a mix of those with gambling problems and those who just enjoy a good bet. Greyhound racing like horseracing has done everything it can to encourage safer betting.

“But if the Gambling Commission insists on probing big punters, they will simply disappear. Some will go to the black market. Some will seek their kicks elsewhere.”

Debate around affordability checks rages on

Lipsey’s comments are the latest contributions to the increasingly contentious debate around proposed affordability checks.

These are often also termed financial risk checks. The government proposed the measures in the Gambling Act review white paper. The white paper put the provision out to a consultation, which closed yesterday.

As contemplated in the white paper, “hard” checks could kick in with a £1,000 spend in 24 hours or £2,000 in 90 days.

These have proved enormously controversial in the racing sector and certain sections of British politics. Several MPs have written opinion pieces criticising the measures.

A minor controversy erupted in September, when Commission executive director Tim Miller suggested during an appearance at the DCMS gambling regulation select committee that punter postcodes would influence these checks.

In a recent speech, Commission chief Andrew Rhodes hit back at what he called “misinformation” in the media about affordability checks.

Sports betting and igaming push revenue up at FDJ in first nine months

Updating the market, FDJ reported strong growth in the nine months to 30 September. This reporting period covers the first, second and third quarter of the operator’s 2023 financial year.

Lottery remains by far FDJ’s primary source of revenue, with the business generating €1.41bn in the period. However, this was 1.2% lower than in the previous year, with draw stakes also down 6.0%.

FDJ says that this was partly due to a reduced number of high EuroMillions jackpot draws compared to last year. The operator also says it was impacted by the relaunch of its Amigo draw game in June. 

Excluding EuroMillions and Amigo, revenue was up 3.0%, draw stakes edged up 1.0% and lottery stakes 3.0%.

FDJ notes sports betting and igaming success

In contrast to the lottery decline, FDJ’s sports betting and igaming reported a 9.3% rise in revenue to €360m. FDJ says this is in line with increasing stakes across the two segments.

A further €103m in revenue came from other, undisclosed activities. This was up 10.0% year-on-year.

Looking at stakes across the entire business, stakes in points of sales increased by 0.8% to €13.28bn. This was driven by sports betting and instant games, despite the impact of the Amigo relaunch.

As for digital stakes, these jumped 10.6% to €2.01bn. FDJ says digital stakes were higher in all business areas, with more players turning to gambling online. 

Gross gaming revenue across the business was €4.81bn. FDJ paid €3.04bn in public levies during the period, leaving the €1.88bn revenue total.

Strong demand set to continue in Q4

Turning to full-year expectations, FDJ hopes to achieve revenue growth of approximately 5.0%. It also expects current EBITDA margin rate to be maintained at 24.0% thanks to tight control of costs.

“Our growth remains solid, with strong players’ demand, even though it has been affected by the low number of EuroMillions high jackpot draws,” FDJ CEO and chairwoman Stéphane Pallez said.

FDJ finalises ZEturf and Premier Lotteries Ireland acquisitions

During the latter part of the nine-month period, FDJ finalised two major acquisitions. These came in the form of online horse racing betting site ZEturf Group and Premier Lotteries Ireland (PLI), operator of the Irish National Lottery.

The PLI deal was announced in late July and is due to complete next month, while ZEturf was acquired just days after the end of the period. FDJ agreed to €350.0m to acquire PLI while the ZEturf deal, first announced late last year, was valued at €175.0m.

Purchasing PLI marks FDJ’s first steps into the international B2C lottery market. PLI will be consolidated by FDJ, with the aim of accelerating PLI’s growth and increase its profitability.

In 2022, PLI posted €140.0m, with an EBITDA margin comparable to that of FDJ.

As for ZEturf, the business is the second largest online horse betting operator in France, with a market share of approximately 20%. FDJ says the deal makes it the fourth largest online gaming operator in the country, offering sports betting, horse betting and poker.

ZEturf posted more than €50.0m in revenue in 2022. As such, FDJ says adding ZEturf to its business will double revenue within its online gaming segment. 

“The completion of the acquisitions illustrates our strategy of internationalisation and diversification,” Pallez said. “We are delighted that the teams of these two operators are joining FDJ and that these operations will contribute to the group’s sustainable and profitable growth.”

AS Roma backs El Shaarawy and Zalewski over illegal betting allegations

Reports have emerged suggesting Stephan El Shaarawy and Nicola Zalewski have taken part in illegal gambling activities. Both players currently play their club football with AS Roma.

The players have both denied the allegations in separate statements. AS Roma has now also put out its own statement backing the accounts of both El Shaarawy and Zalewski.

“In reference to the rumours spread in recent days regarding the alleged involvement of some of its members in the investigation relating to football betting, AS Roma expresses its full support towards Nicola Zalewski and Stephan El Shaarawy, victims of repeated speculation that have unfairly damaged the image,” AS Roma said.

“The club has total faith in Nicola and Stephan when they say they have nothing to do with this matter.”

El Shaarawy was included in the most recent Italian national team squad for games against Malta and England. Italian-born Zalewski plays for Poland but was not selected for its most recent round of games.

Illegal betting row rumbles on in Italy

Reports of El Shaarawy’s and Zalewski’s involvement is the latest chapter in the ongoing illegal betting saga. 

Over the past few weeks, several leading names within Italian football have been linked to partaking in illegal gambling. 

Nicolò Fagioli, who plays for Serie A team Juventus, was the first name to emerge. Reports claimed he placed bets with an unlicensed gambling site. Italian Football Federation (FIGC) rules state athletes found betting on the sport can face bans of up to three years.

This week, the Italian Federal Prosecutor’s Office handed Fagioli a seven-month suspension for betting on football. Juventus says it will support the player during his ban.

“Juventus confirms its full support for Nicolò Fagioli in tackling this path, providing the boy with the necessary support in carrying out the indicated therapeutic plan and, as expressly provided for in the agreement, also collaborating with the federation to identify the planned meeting cycles,” Juventus said.

“We are firmly convinced that Nicolò, with the support of the club, his teammates, his family and the professionals who assist him, will face the therapeutic and training process with a great sense of responsibility and, once the disqualification has been served, he will be able to return to competing with due serenity.”

Two more Italian national team players in Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo have also been linked. Tonali plays for Newcastle United in the English Premier League, while Zaniolo plays for Aston Villa, also of the Premier League. Both players were sent home from national team duty after it was confirmed they were under investigation.

Newcastle confirmed Tonali is subject to investigation by the Italian Prosecutor’s Office and FIGC in relation to illegal betting activity. Aston Villa is yet to comment on Zaniolo’s alleged involvement.

EGBA call for revision of Italian advertising ban

Amid the ongoing dispute, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) this week called for a revision of Italy’s blanket ban on gambling advertising. This came after a report found consumers in the country spend €25.00bn on black market gambling websites each year.

Published by La Gazzetta dello Sport, the report suggests €18.50bn is bet with unlicensed sites each year. This represents approximately 75% of all black market bets in Italy.

As such, EGBA is urging Italian authorities to do more to raise awareness among consumers about these risks. This could include revising Italy’s blanket ban on gambling advertising. The ban currently prohibits all forms of gambling adverts in Italy. However, EGBA says lack of awareness of approved operators could be a factor in high black market gambling rates.

Red card for double standards

The story, which emerged in late September, has seen the governing body (the Football Association, or FA) accused of double standards after hanging Brentford player and diagnosed gambling addict, Ivan Toney, out to dry. This followed breaches of the player code of conduct.

Ironically, Matthew Benham, owner of Brentford FC, was named as one of the gamblers. The story states: “Benham is one of a select few multimillionaire club owners who enjoy an opaque arrangement with the FA that allows them to be involved in betting. The Guardian has seen evidence that appears to show that Benham has made money from bets on football placed in his own name, via a UK-based gambling syndicate called MSPP Admin. Benham said he abides by all FA betting rules.”

The problem here is surely that an individual who can influence team selection – and potentially the players – is making bets. Shouldn’t that be severely restricted? Surely we are not so naive as to believe that only players can influence a game?

If I asked you to name some dodgy football club owners, it would take you perhaps three minutes to come up with a list. If you stopped to make a cup of tea before answering, that is. Make no bones about it, this is all on the FA. If I were Ivan Toney, I would be furious right now.

Not so clear-cut rules

And predictably, the FA has not been forthcoming with the terms of the deal for these owners. Yes, the gambling industry is involved with football ownership; why on earth would that mean special dispensation for betting, though?

There is a clear rule, as outlined in the Guardian’s follow-up: “The FA introduced strict new rules on betting before the 2014-15 season. On the face of it, the rules are simple. To paraphrase: anyone involved in the game must not bet on any football match, anywhere in the world.”

Why does there need to be a special dispensation? Why not just not bet on the game?

There’s a story behind the story, though, I think: why are so many sports governing bodies handling gambling so incredibly badly? Not just in the UK either. Mind you, at least in the United States they have a good excuse, as sports betting is relatively new. In the UK, we have absolutely no excuse; we’ve been doing this for decades and yet we still can’t get things right.

Sporting bodies need to have these rules in hand before they come in to play. In the US, sports betting didn’t exactly jump out and say “boo” – it was on the horizon for months, if not years in many cases. Thankfully the National Football League (NFL) has moved relatively quickly after a raft of player issues this year.

How much responsibility falls on the industry?

But do we really have to give athletes the opportunity to harm their careers and lives, when they should have had the tools to navigate this handed to them months or even years before?

If the governing body gets it right, it places all emphasis on the player to behave responsibly. They’ve had the education, the club has supported this, everyone is on board from top to bottom. If the body gets it wrong, their punishment is hollow and they should look in the mirror long before punishing the player.

As Steve Ruddock clarified in his excellent Straight to the Point newsletter, the NFL has changed its rules around gambling for players this year. The punishment for betting on non-NFL games has been reduced from six games to two for a first offence, while the penalty for betting on NFL games has increased. Players betting on the NFL face a minimum one-year suspension, while those whose betting involves their own team will receive a minimum two-year suspension.

The new rules also cover third-party proxy betting, and they have clearly had at least some thought put into them.

The NFL have recognised that their own game’s integrity, particularly in a world where sports betting can mean increased revenues, is everything. Even politicians have become involved, with Nevada congresswoman Dina Titus responding to the changes: “I’m glad that the NFL created a distinction between behaviour that threatens the integrity of the game and legal wagering on other sports.

“Penalties for game fixing and betting on one’s own league should be more serious than betting on other sports. Every sports league should remain focused on protecting the product on the field. Leagues should periodically review their policies, in consultation with players, to ensure that rules are understood and updated when necessary.”

Knowing what it’s worth

She’s absolutely nailed it there. These are rules – not laws – applying to contracted individuals and they can be relatively easily maintained. There just has to be a will to do it and the intelligence to do it well.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is also weighing in on the subject, with a slightly different angle: protecting young athletes from harm and coercion.

It’s fair to say the NCAA didn’t foresee the fall of PASPA, and they have been anything but organised in the time since it was overturned. Once again, I think it’s not unreasonable to point to the body’s disorganisation – they should have been at the table from the beginning, not calling for inclusion now.

So why are we talking about this? Because one of the things the industry can do is to take away the ammunition of criticism. These bodies have been floundering – they’re not the first and won’t be the last. The speed of growth has often surprised such groups and perhaps this is where we can help.

We can get them prepared, we can explain what works in other countries; after all, international operators do know these rules. We can assist sport governing bodies in maintaining the product’s integrity while keeping players and young athletes safe at the same time. Let’s get our expertise out there, share knowledge and use it for good. Everybody wins.

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