By Paul Nicholson
July 6 – Italian football faces a sponsorship crisis following a government proposal to ban on all gambling advertising, including sponsorship or promotional deals with gambling companies.
The ban has to be approved by parliament within two months but would come into effect on 1 January 2019.
Clubs with betting and gaming company sponsorships already in place will be able to fulfil the term of their contracts, according to the proposal. The ban excludes the state lottery.
More than half of the clubs in Serie A currently have deals with betting and gaming companies and the league said it was monitoring the situation with “extreme concern”.
“Preventing companies in this sector from investing in promotion in our own country would cause competitive disadvantages to Italian clubs, diverting advertising budgets for our teams abroad,” said a league statement.
The ban is part of the so-called ‘Dignity Decree’ which is a package of new measures from the new government mainly aimed at protecting and creating new jobs and social stability.
Betting has been identified as a growing social problem in Italy with a 2015 government report saying as many as 1.3 million Italians are problem gamblers, but only 12,000 people were under treatment for addiction.
Serie A said the government’s proposed measures would be ineffective in tackling addiction, saying that the focus instead should be on “education, prevention, and awareness”.
The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA), told The Associated Press that “each year gambling operators contribute about 120 million euros ($140 million) to sponsor sports teams and leagues in Italy.”
Serie A used the Premier League as an example where betting sponsorships are key to the economic model and vital is sustaining a wider football and media industry.
“In the Premier League, identified by everyone as the benchmark for its ability to generate resources, 45 percent of clubs have a gaming firm as a shirt sponsor and in all the stadiums, on screens pitchside, there is advertising from betting companies,” its statement said. “Prohibiting the firms from this sector to invest in advertising in our country would bring competitive disadvantages to Italian clubs, directing abroad advertising budgets meant for our teams.”
Companies breaking the ban on sponsorship deals would be fined at least €50,000, with the money going to Italy’s fund for tackling gambling addiction.
“[Gambling] was a social emergency that needed to be tackled immediately,” said Luigi Di Maio, Labour Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.
One danger of banning licensing betting and gaming companies from advertising and sponsorship is that it will likely drive gamblers to unlicensed, illegal and unsafe betting operators, potentially compounding the problem the ban is trying solve.
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