Industry news

Italy Plans to Eliminate One-Third of Its 400,000 Land-Based Slot machines

Industry news

Italy Plans to Eliminate One-Third of Its 400,000 Land-Based Slot machines

Italy’s prime minister plans to eliminate up to one-third of the country’s slot machines by the end of 2017. Matteo Renzi’s released his anti-slots plan on Thursday of this past week, which includes the removal of more than 130,000 land-based slot machines in the country.


Prime Minister Renzi’s decision comes after years of advocacy by Italian problem gambling groups, along with years of revenue expansion in the brick-and-mortar gambling industry. While Matteo Renzi (pictured right) seeks to eliminate land-based EGMs, the Italian online gambling industry continues to welcome international gambling operators.


$97 Billion a Year Slots Industry

Italy has a $97 billion a year slots industry. Revenues from the one-armed bandits expanded significantly in the past 15 years, after many regulations on the gaming industry were eliminated.


Deregulation led to the appearance of slot machines and video lottery terminals coffee shops and other beverage places throughout the country. Now, Italy is the fourth-largest gambling market in the world.


Prevalence of Gaming Machines

Matteo Renzi‘s supporters note that the country has one gaming machine for every 125 people. That is more than half the penetration in the United States brick-and-mortar gambling history.


Many Italians believe the easy access to slot machines has increased gaming addiction. An estimated 1 million Italians are categorized as “heavy gamblers”, in a population of around 60 million people. Italians spend an average of about €1,500 a year on gambling, which is more than any other nation in the western world.


Agostina Lacriola: Former Italian Gaming Addict

The Wall Street Journal published a story after Matteo Renzi’s announcement. That article contained the story of 66-year-old pensioner Agostino Lacriola, whose gambling addiction ruined his finances and led him to consider suicide, due to a combination of shame and financial ruin.


Mr. Lacriola said his addiction began with scratch cards, after he won €1,000 after buying a scratch-off. His addiction eventually transferred to slot machines in coffee shops, which presents issues to this day.


Slot Machines in Coffee Shops

Though Agostino Lacriola eventually kicked his addiction with the help of a support group, he said that he still feels the compunction to gamble, if he lingers in a coffee shop too long.


Lacriola said, “Everywhere you go you’re always passing a place where you can gamble. Sometimes still today I’ll be in a coffee shop waiting to pay when I hear the noise of a slot machine and I get out of there as fast as I can, because I’m afraid of falling back into the addiction.”


European Trend Towards Gambling Regulations

The decision to create new regulations on the gambling industry reflects an international trend towards greater regulations, mainly designed to protect gamblers from excess. The United Kingdom is another country where laws are being implimented to curb gaming machine revenues from problem gambling activities. William Hill underwent upheaval after a panic button and restrictions on gaming ads led to a decline in revenues.


Critics say that the Renzi government would be hard pressed to replace the lost tax revenue, which would amount to billions of dollars over the next number of years.


Italian Online Gambling

Along with Spain, Italy is considered one of the key expanding online gambling markets on the planet. When the British parliament passed its Point-of-Consumption tax on offshore operators who accepted play from the United Kingdom, many of the UK gaming sites began searching for new markets to replace the lost revenues and diversify their portfolio. Many of those gaming companies poured resources into gaining an Italian license and building a customer base.


Italy has been opening up its online gaming industry to gaming sites from across the EU in the past few years. Meanwhile, Italy’s own gambling industry has expanded into foreign markets. The international lottery operator GTECH is one of the biggest gaming companies in the world. GTECH bought the world’s largest slot machine manufacturer, International Game Technology, and is currently in the process of rebranding itself IGT around the globe. While it uses the more famous American brand name, IGT has key headquarters in London and is still controlled by Italians operators.


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