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Online gaming is still dwarfed by the Italian passion for VLTs. Graham Wood reports.


ITALY I


t is certain that Italian gaming operators have not spent much time lounging on


the beach this summer, as companies have been ensur- ing that the development of a range of new products stays on track.


Thousands of Video Lottery Terminals have been installed countrywide in the last three months, and with online casino and cash poker still on course to be regulated from 1 November, IT teams have been working frantically to ensure that the gaming platforms are ready for integration to the author- ity’s systems.


Furthermore, it appears that Italy’s gamblers have not abandoned their habits either, with gaming spend still on the up, even during the dog days of August. According to figures released by the gaming authority, annual growth for online spend continued in double figures whilst turnover for all forms of gambling - both online and offline - also grew at a similar level. Once again, Italy’s love affair with slot machines ensured that AWPs accounted for over half of all spending.


Online gaming recorded annual growth of a relatively


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Double digit gambling growth continues in Italy


iGAMINGBRIEFS


CASINOS WORKING TOGETHER 200%


La Société Française des Jeux sur Internet (SFJI), a consortium of 40 French casinos, has launched an online poker website called 200% Poker. The brand will be led by Luc Le Borgne, directeur general of Vikings-Casino, who said: “Our customers are keen to experience the thrill of online poker. With world- class platform and the private service we get from [software provider] Spiral Solutions France, we’re confident that 200% Poker will be a great success.”


SEGA SHUTS SITES


ITALY’S PASSION FOR SLOT MACHINES DOMINATES THE GAMBLING MARKET


modest 16 per cent in August. However, the monthly turnover figure of 316m euro (£272.9m) took the total spend to date to almost 3.2bn euro (£2.8bn), up 40 per cent on the figures for the first eight months of 2009.


Slots may take the lion share of Italians’ spend (52 per cent) offline, but online it is poker and skill games that dominate, accounting for over 70 per cent of the total. During August, spend on online poker and skill games (the latter account- ing for only one or two percent of the total) was sur- prisingly not down on July’s figure given that August is the month when Italy closes down for holidays, but the month’s total of 225m euro (£194.3m) was nevertheless 27.1 per cent higher than that recorded in August 2009. Online sports betting reg-


ANALYSIS


It is Italy’s slots operators, busy installing tens of thousands of VLTs throughout the country, that have most reason to celebrate as turnover rose from 1.98bn euro (£1.7m) in August 2009 to 2.4bn euro (£2.1bn) in the same month of this year. No official figures have yet been released on the performance of the newly regulated machines but Lottomatica announced that its first 70 VLTs generated turnover of 5.4m euro (£4.7m) in their first 20 days, from 11-31 August, and since then it has added several hundred other machines countrywide, whilst SISAL activated its first machines on 9 September and Cogetech followed suit later in the month. The first official figures will most likely be published by the gaming authority during October. For the moment it appears a case of ‘crisis, what crisis?’ for operators in the gaming sector, whilst the rest of the Italian economy is far from healthy.


istered a slight increase compared to July (up to 67m euro - £57.8m) but saw an annual fall (-16 per cent) resulting from football leagues beginning later this year, following the staging of the World Cup this summer. Internet betting as a percentage of total turnover returned above 30 per cent in August after several months when addi- tional footfall in betting shops during June and July


reduced the proportion staked online.


The good news for bingo operators continued in August. Total spend from all channels recorded an increase, up from 135m euro in July to 155m euro (£116.6m-£133.9m), with the amount spent online more or less stable at around 11m euro (£9.5m). Lottomatica’s scratch- card business, on the other hand, has little to celebrate.


Standardisation call from AAMS D


REGULATION


uring September’s 8th European Conference on Gambling Studies and Policy Issues, Francesco Rodano, the man heading up the remote gaming depart- ment of Italy’s AAMS author- ity, gave a presentation entitled: “Can Italy be the template of a Pan-European regulation?” Given the news in recent weeks concerning proposals to open up the Greek and Spanish online gaming markets, it appears that the answer is ‘Yes’, but only partially.


The problem for opera- tors was put succinctly by


Rodano when he observed: “Twenty-seven member States could mean twenty- seven different sets of licensing requirements, making the life of an inter- national gaming operator that wants to comply with all of them nearly impossi- ble. So, some common requirements, mutually recognised, should eventu- ally be in place.”


Operators will indeed be hoping that there will be co- operation and standardisa- tion but unfortunately, for the moment, it appears that every state is considering a


14 BettingBusinessInteractive • OCTOBER 2010


different version of the type of ‘controlled opening’ espoused by the French and Italians.


In August, the Greeks published a consultation document on how a legisla- tive framework might look, with the aim of ensuring that a liberalised online gaming market be established by the middle of 2011. Following on from the French example it was suggested that OPAP be allowed to continue its retail monopoly and be able to expand its product port- folio to include VLTs. In Spain, details of pro-


posals were released in Sep- tember but these appear to be at an initial stage with few details provided on what products, apart from sports betting, would be regulated. So, it appears that there is good news out there: gov- ernments are waking up to the need to reform; but also bad news: they are not learn- ing from Italy’s experience which showed that only when taxes are low and there is a broad product range available will gam- blers forsake .com sites in favour of locally licensed operators.


All channels figures have been static or in decline over recent years, and monthly spend online in August was half that of January, 3.5m euro (£3.0m) compared to 6.9m euro (£6.0m), and down one third on the equiv- alent month of 2009. Mean- while, thanks to highly publicised rollovers, SISAL’s Superenalotto game is on the up, spend during August up to over 300m euro (£259m).


Two online gaming sites run by video games brand Sega have been unceremoniously closed down. A message has been left on both Sega Casino and Sega Poker that the websites are no longer offering registration or deposits and existing customers have been given the facility to withdraw their funds. No reason has been given for the shut down of the sites, which were only launched earlier this year. There have been suggestions that the operation just didn’t make enough money, despite the strong use of Sega’s popular games brands in its casino offering.


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Angus Nisbet, gaming director at Rank


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UK FIRMS EYEING SOUTH AFRICA


FRANCESCO RODANO


Both Victor Chandler and Ladbrokes have suggested that they are confident in obtaining licenses that will allow them to operate online gamine in South Africa. The South African authorities are expected to make egaming licences available next year and both bookmakers want to be at the front of the queue. Victor Chandler already has an online sports betting licence, while Ladbrokes is hoping to obtain one soon from the Western Cape Gambling & Racing Board.


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