Italian Gambling Facing Massive Losses, Shop Closures Over Coronavirus Shutdown

  • All dedicated gambling venues shut until early April
  • More than €600m expected to be shaved off the sector
  • 15 percent of betting shops could close

More than 6,000 betting shops, 5,000 arcades and 200 bingo halls have been shut across Italy and will not reopen until at least April 3, as the country is placed on lockdown to slow the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic.

All betting shops, video lottery terminals (VLTs) and bingo will remain inaccessible in Italy as long as the country remains in government-mandated isolation.

For those still able to reach retail outlets, it is still possible to buy scratch cards and tickets for lotteries including the Lotto and SuperEnalotto draws, place limited sports bets and access some slot machines, but only in tobacconist shops.

Machines must be installed and bets taken only in venues where proprietors can guarantee a minimum distance of at least one metre between customers.

All sports events, including football matches, have been suspended. Schools will remain closed until April 3.

On Monday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte ordered people to stay at home and seek permission from the interior ministry if they need to make essential travel. Cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus have been confirmed in all 20 Italian regions.

There are more than 12,462 confirmed cases of the disease in Italy, with more than 827 deaths.

The cost to the gambling industry is expected to be massive.

According to official estimates seen by VIXIO GamblingCompliance, gross gaming revenue losses during the period March 9 to April 3 will be around €600m. Losses are expected to broken up into around €150m for VLTs, €65m from retail sports betting and bingo, €340m from slot machines and €40m from bingo.

The Italian exchequer will lose out on around €330m, while venue licensees, machine dealers and gambling suppliers are expected to lose around €270m.

Companies already running at low profits will likely fold during the downtime, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of betting shops are believed to be at serious risk.

In a press release on Monday, Playtech said its Italian business Snaitech had enjoyed a strong start to 2020, but had already begun to feel the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Following the government decree, the company confirmed that all of its betting shops, arcades and bingo halls across Italy would close until at least April 3.

Snaitech’s online operation will continue and may act to mitigate some of the financial impact, said Playtech.

Elsewhere, Casinò di Venezia in Venice said it expects to lose €10m in March. New York-listed Newgioco, an online operator that runs around 2,010 internet cafes offering sports betting, saw its share price close down 22 percent at $2.10 on Wednesday.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated what was already a tough year for Italian VLTs, which since January 1 require the mandatory use of a state health ID card to play. Revenues dropped around 30 percent during the first quarter of 2020.

In the next few days the government is expected to issue a decree to offer financial support to all Italian companies, beginning with the suspension or postponement of tax payments. The measures are likely to include the gambling industry.

Italian VLT and slot dealers association Astro called for immediate measures to support the sector.

“The government should allow the operators to postpone both the payment of machines’ taxes and the concession fees,” said chairman Massimiliano Pucci.

In a press release published by another trade group, Confindustria-Sistema Gioco Italia, gambling operators said they consider it absolutely necessary to delay the payment of the betting and bingo duty.

 

Written by Nicola Tani

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