As an early execution of the overall gambling-sector reorganization announced by the sub-secretary for the Italian Ministry of Finance in charge of gambling, the legitimacy of all gaming machines and land-based betting concessions has been extended to 2023 and 2024, respectively, while the relevant tenders’ publication has been delayed. These tenders should presumably implement the expected gambling-sector reform, for which a term extension of the existing concessions was necessary. Going more into detail regarding the gaming-machine sector, all AWP/VLT concessions were about to terminate on 31 March 2022. However, with a notice from Italy’s Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM) addressed to the licensees, the Agency has unilaterally extended, at the same terms and conditions, the validity of their concessions for one year — up to 29 June 2023 — in application of a license deed provision that allows for this term extension due to unpredictable events. More specifically, the Italian gambling authority considered the impact of the pandemic on the gaming-machine sector which, due to the different lockdown measures, prevented any gambling collection for a period of 12 months in 2020 and 2021. Besides, the Budget Law for 2020 has already set forth the launch by ADM of the relevant tender for the new concessions’ assignment pertaining to AWP and VLT and specified the main tenders’ rules, providing for the tender to be a competitive selection procedure, in compliance with both national and UE principles. It states for the assignment of a maximum number of: ▪ 200,000 rights for AWP remote gaming machines, with a minimum bid of 10,000 rights at a starting price of €1,800 each; ▪ 50,000 rights for VLT, with a minimum bid of 2,500 rights at starting price €18,000 each; Both types of gaming machines may be located in bingo halls and betting shops holding a concession granted by ADM, as well as in the following locations, which should be assigned by the same tender: ▪ 3,000 rights to locate AWP remote gaming machines at bar and tobacconist premises, with a minimum bid of 100 rights at starting price €11,000 each; ▪ 2,500 rights to locate both AWP remote gaming machines and VLT at dedicated gambling halls, with a minimum bid of 100 rights at starting price €35,000 each. However, this tender publication was delayed several times and not only because of the COVID-19 emergency. Indeed, in recent years, local administrations started to jeopardise the exclusive attribution of gambling legislative power to central public administration by enacting provisions that restricted the opening hours of all gaming halls and imposed minimum distances from sensitive premises, resulting de facto in preventing the allocation of licensed halls. For now, the gaming-machine tender should take place right before the end of the extended concessions’ term, hopefully after the overall legislative framework at both state and local levels has been clarified with the announced gambling-sector reform. Turning to land-based betting and horse-betting operators, the Italian lawmaker recently set, within the implementation law for the National Recovery and Resilience Plan entered into force on 29 June 2022, an extension to 30 June 2024 of the duration of all their relevant concessions. This law provision quotes specifically, among the grounds for the extension, the need to implement the gambling-sector reorganisation. Relevant terms and conditions of this onerous prorogation have been recently fixed by ADM notices. However, it must be pointed out that all horse-betting and sports-betting concessions had already expired on 30 June 2016 and have been operating under prorogation since then, waiting for the tender publication by ADM. Here as well, the Budget Law for 2016 has already set forth the launch by ADM of the relevant tender procedure for the new concessions’ assignment and specified the main tenders’ rules, providing for the tender to be a competitive selection procedure, in compliance with both national and UE principles. It states for the assignment of a maximum number of: ▪ 10,000 rights for selling points having as the main activity the sale of gambling products (“betting shops”) with a starting bidding price of €32,000; ▪ 5,000 rights for selling points having as ancillary activity the sale of gambling products (“corners”), 1,000 of which at most having as their main activity administration of food and drink and with a starting biding price €18,000. To date, this tender publication has been postponed many times, with a consequent prorogation of all current betting concessions’ validity. Here as well, it is very likely the tender should take place right before the end of the extension, hopefully after the process for the reorganisation of the whole gambling sector is completed. And what about the online gambling concessions? All currently active concessions on the Italian gambling market will expire on 31 December 2022. The Budget Law for 2020 has already granted the power to ADM to launch a new tender procedure, capped at 40 concessions, to offer remote gambling, with a minimum bidding price at €2,500,000 for each, the operation of which starts on 1 January 2023. Such new licenses’ validity has been set for 9 years, not renewable. However, to date, the relevant tender procedure has not been published. Presumably following the national and European remote-gambling associations’ complaints about the procedure, the sub-secretary for the Italian Ministry of Finance in charge of gambling announced its willingness to revise the tender provisions within the general gambling-sector reorganization. For the above reasons, it is therefore unlikely to exclude that online-gambling concessions may benefit for a similar short-term extension, as it has been applied for all land-based concessions.
July 14, 2022 2:00 AM