Italy is a gambling-friendly nation that permits online sports betting, casino gambling, poker, bingo and skill games. Although the technical legalities are horribly complex, the situation is much simpler from our point of view as gamblers: we can play almost anywhere we want. In fact, I have a few recommendations to offer right now.
Italian betting sites operate in a legal, regulated market that is mostly friendly towards gaming. Gaming licenses are horribly expensive and taxes are a bit high, but most of the world’s large gaming brands have nonetheless established a presence on Italian soil. The market continues to show growth year after year, even while the online betting markets in other countries struggle.
Gaming laws in Italy permit up to 200 operators to receive licenses to operate within the country. Although hundreds of unlicensed sites continue to accept Italians despite lacking the necessary licensing, there is no need to deal with illegal gaming sites. Nearly every major name in online betting has a license to offer real money poker, sports betting and casino games over the internet in Italy.
Sports Betting in Italy
Italians enjoy considerable freedom when it comes to sports betting. The country allows real money sports betting both online and in the real world at approved kiosks and parlors. Punters may wager on any major sport at shops located all across the country and at licensed online bookmakers.
Some betting shops in the real world are licensed under Italy’s Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) regulator while foreign-owned shops operate under a separate license. Estimates put the total number of foreign owned shops (CTDs) at around 5,000, although firm numbers are hard to come by. Rumors have it that the government may even issue thousands of additional licenses in an effort to combat a growing black market of underground sports betting.
Serie A betting is extremely popular in Italy along with a number of international and domestic football leagues across Europe. Horse racing is also quite popular amongst Italians. Basketball has increased immensely in popularity over the last decade and has now become one of the country’s most watched and bet on sports.
In 2016, the ADM approved betting on eSports events such as League of Legends and Dota 2. The ADM first gave local sports betting operator SNAI authorization to offer real money wagers on a limited variety of video games. In time, the ADM plans to authorize additional games as well as permit more operators to offer eSports markets.
Online Poker Sites and Casinos
Online poker and casino gambling are also legal as long as all betting is done at an Italian betting site operating on a .it domain. Italy is home to many poker players, but the full potential of the industry was hampered due to early ring-fencing laws that forced operators to keep Italians separate from the rest of the world.
Good news came after Italian regulators finally came around to the idea of loosening those ring fencing requirements. In 2017, Italy signed an agreement with Spain, Portugal and France allowing poker sites licensed in those countries to share players across international borders.
Now, Italians are no longer forced to play only with fellow nationals – poker players may now find themselves seated at tables from players located in other countries. The immediate impact of this change is still being determined, but it bodes well for Italian poker sites because it means poker sites will be much busier with more active players online. This will in turn result in more cash games, more populated tournaments, bigger prize pools and the poker sites themselves looking more attractive to prospective players.
Online casinos, meanwhile, continue to do very well in Italy. Industry figures show consistent growth and players seem to be happy to play at licensed operators. An account with any Italian casino site provides access to all the same games and wagers that you would find at a real world casino. Slot machines, table games and casino classics such as roulette are all offered at a wide range of stakes.
The Road to Regulation
The road to regulation began in 2006 when Italy eased some of its anti-gaming laws to legalize online betting exchanges and real money skill games. The country also announced its intent to formally legalize online poker by January 1st, 2007 and allow foreign operators to based in the EU to provide gambling games in brick-and-mortar venues.
Italy maintained tight control over online gaming after 2007 and was very restrictive in who it licensed to offer real money games. At the time, only the Italian National Olympic Committee and National Horse Breeders Enhancement Society were permitted to offer sports betting and horse racing betting.
The EU saw Italy’s gaming laws as a form of illegal protectionism according to fair trade agreements. Italy continued to block access to foreign gaming sites and the EU subsequently ordered Italian authorities to amend their gaming laws and open the market to competition from other EU operators.
Italy acquiesced to the EU’s demands with a new law implemented in 2010 that truly opened the market to competition. The 2010 law legalized nearly every form of online betting and instituted the licensing regimen that exists to this day. The Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato (AAMS) was established as the regulatory body that currently issues licenses and oversees the industry. In 2012, AAMS was merged into the Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (Customs and Monopolies Agency), where it remains today.
Under current laws, Italian betting sites must meet a number of qualifications in order to be accepted as licensees. Operators seeking a license must have an established residence in an EEA country, show a betting turnover of at least EUR 1,500,000 over the previous two years and operate on a .it domain name.
Additionally, licensees must connect to a central system operated by the AAMS that grants access to records of every wager placed by an Italian customer. Upon approval, the gaming company must pay a one-time fee of €350,000 for the license.
Gambling companies that are incorporated in Italy are required to pay a corporate tax of 27.5%. Depending on the region they are established, Italian based operators also pay an additional state tax of 2% to 5%. Each form of gaming provided by the operator is also taxed at a separate rate ranging from 3% to 20% on total betting turnover.
Important Pieces of Legislation:
Finance Act of 2007: This piece of legislation altered gambling laws to legalize card games of skill. This effectively legalized popular card games, such as Texas Holdem, Omaha and Seven Card Stud. However, this did not legalize video poker and casino gambling as these games were still considered by authorities to be mostly dependent on luck.
Comunitaria Decree: Two versions of one Comunitaria Decree formalized the licensing process for prospective licensees. This was the major breakthrough that foreign operators had been waiting for as it finally opened the doors to the Italian betting market.
Legal Online Betting Activities in Italy:
You may legally participate in any of the following forms of gambling at any Italian betting site that is properly licensed.
- Sports betting
- eSports betting
- Casino games
- Horse racing betting
- Exchange betting
- Skill games
Are there still unlicensed betting sites operating in Italy?
Yes – at least in small numbers. Most of the big players in online betting either have an appropriate license or restrict Italians from signing up. Gaming authorities do keep a close eye on the industry and have been known to yank licenses from operators caught bending the rules.
While many unlicensed Italian betting websites are reputable, a small percentage of them are not. Players may be violating Italian law by playing on them, but there has not been a precedent to confirm this. It also does not appear to be a priority of the Italian government, despite their large blacklist of sites. Players also will not have the legal backing of the EU or ADM if a problem or a dispute might occur on one of these unlicensed sites.
Deposits and Withdrawals
Licensed Italian betting sites have access to all the same banking methods that people would use to shop online anywhere else. These include direct bank transfers, credit cards, debit cards and Postepay. Making a deposit is as simple as choosing a method from the cashier and following the instructions on the screen.
If you want to get started as quickly as possible, a direct bank transfer or credit card deposit is the way to go. You simply type in your information, hit the “confirm” button and your account is credited instantly. If you don’t have a bank account or would prefer to add a layer of privacy to your deposits, Postepay offers prepaid cards that you can pick up at any post office.
Withdrawals are normally processed back through the same method used to deposit. Even Postepay has a system in place to issue wire transfers back to prepaid cards. Reputable operators can have your funds credited to you within several business days.
Growth in Revenue Except for Poker
Online sports betting and casino revenues have shown growth every year for several years running now. Italian media reported in 2015 that online gaming revenue had risen 9% over the first six months of the year compared to that same time period the previous year. Over that time, total revenue clocked in at €398 million.
Online poker has struggled of late, most likely due to the fact that Italian poker sites are legally obligated to ring-fence their games. This means operators such as PokerStars are required to keep all Italian players in a separate player pool segregated from the rest of the world. If you play poker at a licensed poker site, you will only be seated with other Italians. Ring fencing is terrible for liquidity and has made it difficult for all but the largest operators to achieve a critical mass of players capable of supporting healthy, populated games.