Italian online gaming licenses – Updated FAQs!

by DLA Piper

Online gaming has considerably changed during the last 3 years and therefore I decided to publish an updated version of the FAQs on the regime applicable to Italian online gaming licenses.

Over 3 years ago, I had published this post outlining the most relevant requirements necessary to apply for an Italian online gaming licenses which resulted to be quite successful.  After so much time here is an updated version of that post:

Q. – Why do I need an Italian gaming license to enter into the Italian gaming market? My company already holds a foreign gaming license, what are the benefits of an Italian gaming license?

The offering of games to Italian residents without an Italian online gaming license is subject to criminal sanctions and tax penalties.  The current strategy of the Government is to challenge to unlicensed operators the lack of payment of taxes as a more effective tool against what is usually called the ‘black market’.  Also, the reduction of the black market is expected to occur following the decision by the 8 major casino game suppliers to stop offering their games to foreign licensed operators targeting Italian players.  Finally, more stringent measures against unlicensed operators will be adopted by the beginning of 2015 through the measures implementing the so called ‘Delega Fiscale’ decree.

Q. – Do I need that my company is established in Italy or that the servers are located in Italy to apply for an Italian gaming license?

No, license holders, their servers and personnel can be located in any country of the European Economic Area including Gibraltar.  On the contrary, it will not be possible to keep the company and the infrastructure in non-EU countries like Alderney and the Isle of Man.

The possibility to locate the entity holding the license abroad triggers considerable tax savings as the operator shall pay only Italian gaming taxes, while it shall not pay Italian corporate taxes.  Also, the scenario is interesting for operators that currently hold the Italian gaming license through an Italian entity as they might relocate the company abroad even though this will require to comply with the so called ‘exit tax’ regime.

Q. – What is the turnover of the Italian gaming market?

You can find at this link a presentation of the University of Milan on the matter.

Q. – Ok, can apply for an online gaming license NOW?

Unfortunately the answer is no! However, as outlined in this post, it is possible to become assignee  of an Italian online gaming license held by a previous license holder but the deal cannot be structured as an asset deal.

Q. – Ok, why shall I spend plenty of money in order to acquire an Italian online gaming license?

Italy is the largest gaming market in Europe and, given the level of competition, some operators are exiting the market which creates good opportunities in terms of pricing for the acquisition of online gaming licenses.  At the same time some well established operators are investing more in the land based sector which opened new opportunities in the online sector.  And the launch of new products with the opening up of the sportsbetting market, the approval of regulations on bets on virtual events and betting exchange, but especially the shutting down of the non-Italian licensed casino market will boost its growth.

Q. Let’s speak about technical issues, I have heard that operators have to comply with stringent technical requirements.

This is true, but especially in case of casino games the problem can be overcome using the platform and games that the software provider has already certified.  Also, the technical approval process required by AAMS has now become much smoother with lower requirements in terms of technical documents to be submitted to the regulator.

Q. – Final question: Taxes

The gaming duty varies depending on the type of game involved. For instance in case of cash card games, casino games, betting exchange and bets on virtual events is 20% of the revenues, while in case of skill games (including online poker tournament) it is 3% of the turnover.  Also, as discussed at the gaming conference that we arranged last year, the current turnover based tax regime for sportbetting is likely to switch to a GGR tax by the beginning of next year.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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