Online poker in Italy was expected to become big business in 2010, when the properties of liberalization finally came into effect. Distinguished operators throughout Europe were licensed to operate within the Italian market, but its ring-fenced nature has steadily smothered any margin of profitability. Now, it seems Italy is finally considering sharing online poker liquidity.
Italian gaming attorney Giulio Coraggio of the global law firm, DLA Piper, revealed that Italy may be preparing to open the international flood gates to its internet gambling market. He spoke of drafted (but as yet unpublished) legislation aimed at reforming the current iGaming market to bring bettors back to the virtual gaming market, and international shared liquidity is right at the top of the new menu.
In a statement last week, Coraggio said, “Italian gaming laws are going to be considerably amended as part of the so-called Delega Fiscale law which, among others, is likely to change the regime of sports betting and poker tournament to 20-percent Gross Gaming Revenue.”
According to Coraggio, among the legislation’s multiple benefits is conceptual law that would greatly expand the role of Italian gaming regulator, Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato. The AAMS would take on more direct responsibilities in the development of domestic gambling policies, and would work closely with other European regulatory bodies.
“In the last draft of such law,” claimed Coraggio, “a new provision was introduced to allow the management of games by the Italian gambling regulator, AAMS, together with the authorities of other countries.”
Italian Online Poker Market Diminishing
Italy is facing a disastrous situation that has seen its online poker market diminish drastically year over year. In 2014, cash game GGR dropped 21% compared to 2013, while online poker tournament participation saw a similar descent of 18%. Italy is currently generating €178 million in online poker GGR; a mere fraction of its value prior to regulating and ring-fencing the market.
Like Italy, online poker markets throughout the world have experienced significant decline in patronage and revenue, with ring-fenced markets taking the brunt of the assault. The general consensus from vested interests is that opening those fences to shared liquidity presents the best opportunity to overcome such hurdles, and create a more appealing marketplace for both operators and consumers.
“The online poker market is facing considerable difficulties worldwide and in countries like Italy, Spain, and France the impact of such crisis might be even higher given that they are closed loop markets,” rationalized Coraggio. “But if poker international sharing liquidity will be allowed, the scenario might considerably change.”
Other iGaming Venues Looking Up in Italy
On a brighter note, despite the flagging online poker market in Italy, other interactive betting venues have been on the rise. Online sports betting and casino gambling—the original catalysts of the Italian iGaming market—continue to grow.
The most significant increase has come from mobile gambling. According to AAMS reports, betting on mobile devices rose 104% in 2014 compared to the previous year, accounting for an estimated 13.7% of the total Italian online gambling market’s GGR in 2014.
Potential for Italy Online Poker without Borders
If Coraggio’s assessment of a reformed online poker regime holds true, the end result could be a complete turnaround in the appreciation of the Italian market. It would allow the country’s largest operators, like PokerStars.it and iPoker.it, to share their global networks with their Italian player base.
PokerStars.it, for example, currently averages 1150 players, while its unfettered international operation is home to a 7-day average of 15,500.