With Italy’s online casino sector on an upward trajectory of growth, which has been significantly accelerated by the global pandemic, there has also been an unwanted rise in illegal online gaming.
Taking part in a Kiron-sponsored panel session entitled ‘La Dolce Vita: how can slots hit Italy’s sweet spot?’ at today’s SBC Digital Italy, Domenico Dragone, CEO of The Betting Coach, moderated the panel and pressed the panellists on the growth of Italy’s black market.
Cristiano Azzolini Di Maggio, head of casino at Signorbet.it, stated: “Trying to make something forbidden is the best way to give interest to people.”
He continued: “The closure of online casinos has made people play in illegal casinos. The only solution is to reopen casinos, which will give players the possibility to play in a legal way … This has to be understood by our government.”
Echoing Di Maggio’s point, Daniela Lanzolla, director of gaming at SKS365, went further to highlight that the advertising ban within the Italian market had enhanced the appeal of illegal casinos within the country.
She noted: “The advertising ban has made the barrier for entry into the market equal for everybody, legal or illegal. I think, unfortunately, that the advertising ban is also responsible for the surge of illegal gambling in Italy.”
Andrea Guzzon, general manager Italy at SG Digital, drew on his experience within the Italian market, dating back to 2010. He claimed it was a ‘very old story’ which for years the Italian regulator fought against the illegal markets and tried to find a solution.
“It’s not easy to stop a website which is located outside our country… No one in betting or Italian sportsbooks can compete with paying taxes in Italy compared to an operator that doesn’t,” he said.
“In my opinion, one of the biggest things we can do to stop illegal traffic is to involve producers into the market, involving them into these products. Right now, these kinds of things have been done between the regulator and operator against the illegal traffic.”
Discussion soon turned towards the positive impacts that the pandemic had on the Italian market. In 2019, the online gambling GGR increased at around 12 per cent a year, a trend which continued to surge during 2020.
Highlighting the recent figures, Lanzolla stated that last year saw an increment of 47 per cent in the online slot/gaming market, totalling 1.4 billion users, that was according to the ADM which was recently published.
She added: “Obviously the pandemic kept people at home and our customers were loyal. We engaged with them on a number of initiatives that were from slot tournaments… we tried to keep our customers entertained.”
Further into the panel, Dragone turned the attention to player trends when it comes to the type of games which attracts users. Pinpointing Di Maggio and Signorbet’s approach, the head of casino claimed that the company is consistently looking to find games which have more ‘interesting’ features for the customers.
“We are very interested in games, with the solution of the Megaways, that can offer the community to buy bonuses, the possibility to interact with the game in a more involving/evolving way,” Di Maggio stated.
“In this moment, the games are characterised by amazing sounds and amazing graphics. Those are all aspects that the player requests and that we try to find in every provider that we have on our site. We try to choose those games that can give the player a different experience… something similar to the land-based and an interesting look importing from land-based to online games.
“They can help us in the future when this pandemic situation can be resolved. This can also help us retain the player from land-based to online and after that, get them to come back to land-based.”
Rounding up the session, Dragone addressed the topics of 3D slots along with the increase in popularity of cryptocurrency; the latter being a topic which Guzzon claimed to have ‘lukewarm’ feelings about.
SG Digital’s general manager explained: “There is some upside in providing casino games with cryptocurrencies. The main issue that I see there is the regulation.
“I don’t want to say it doesn’t work, it can do in other markets, especially in markets where it is not so easy to use standard payment systems like credit cards and so on, looking at markets like Latin America and India.
“However, cryptocurrency has a big issue right now which is it’s quite hard, if not impossible, to track who is the owner, therefore, I see it’s quite difficult to see this payment system in a market like Italy as you will need, for compliance, to track the money where the come comes and goes.”
On the topic of 3D titles, Guzzon concluded that it was an area which the industry experienced in the past yet he noted it was still a field which provides an ‘opportunity’ for operators who want to enter as there are currently ‘no games or operators’ serving this type of product.
SBC Digital Italy, on 17 February, is the leading online conference and exhibition for the Italian betting and gaming market. Delegates can register for free here to join the event live or watch the conference sessions on demand.