Italian FA sparks debate about re-legalisation of gambling adverts

  • Updated
  • By Max Jenner
Italy gambling advert ban
Ad Disclosure
We rely on our relationships with partner sites to keep our service free. We receive compensation from many of the brands featured on Online Bingo UK which may influence how we display them.

However, we only recommend brands that we believe are safe, fair and trustworthy. The commission we receive does not affect the impartiality of our content.

The governing body for football in Italy has appealed to the government to lift a ban on gambling advertising in the sport in order to help the country recover from the massive economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Friday, the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC) expressed serious concerns that the economic impact of the pandemic was in danger of putting football in grave danger. Among the proposals set out in the letter is the lifting of a suspension of gambling advertising in football that has been in place for two years.

According to FIGC President Gabriele Gravina, ‘The severe economic repercussions generated by the emergency of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown measures to which professional clubs have been subjected have now become unbearable, putting the survival of the whole industry at risk.’

The FIGC suggests that the lifting of restrictions on gambling-related advertising should continue for at least two years in order to give the industry time to recover. To complement this law, the FIGC has also recommended the establishment of a ‘Football Savings Fund’ which would divert 1% of money raised from all sports bets in Italy to a fund run by the FIGC to sponsor football-related projects and activities.

The ban on gambling advertising was approved in July 2019 by the populist-nationalist government then in power after being introduced by Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio — himself a soft drink vendor at football stadiums in a previous life. At the time, it was rolled out as part of a so-called ‘dignity decree’ which imposed massive restrictions on the gambling industry. At the time, the Ministry of Economy and Finance warned that the ban could reduce tax revenues by 5%, or €150m by the 2020/21 economic year. As it happened the losses incurred by the football industry turned out to be worse than anyone could have imagined.

The proposed Football Savings Fund would probably go a long way towards helping local clubs. Even so, although it would raise a substantial amount of money, a contribution of 1% of all sports bets seems like a somewhat timid offering. Many gamblers might be happy to see double this amount donated if they knew the money was going towards rebuilding and re-energising the sporting industry.

As for the impact of a potential lifting of the ban on gambling-related advertising, it all depends on how long it would be maintained for. The link between increased advertising and problem gambling is a vexed issue, but evidence for it is generally unclear. The Italian economy needs all the support it can get to rebuild itself, so in the short term lifting the ban might prove to be an effective way of boosting the football industry. If the government decided to keep the suspension on beyond two years, it might simply carry on indefinitely — which would highlight just how vital gambling-generated revenue was to the sport.

The government that introduced the ban was made up of ministers with no prior political experience at the national level. The current government, in power since February, includes more ministers with an academic or political background, but it is an unstable alliance. The only thing holding the parties together is the need to address the economic impact of the pandemic, which makes pushing for legislative changes very difficult. The Five Star Movement, the party that pushed for the ban, might still object to its lifting despite the severe economic circumstances.

A major step towards injecting cash into football which might command more cross-party support would be to allow stadiums to open to full capacity again to holders of the newly-introduced ‘green pass’ vaccine passport, as suggested by Genoa chairman Enrico Preziosi last week.