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Online Poker Plummeting in Italy, While Casino and Sports Wagering Surge

Online Poker in Italy
  • Italy's regulated online poker net revenues dropped by 17 percent in Sept. 2015 when compared to Sept. 2014.

Regulated online poker continues to struggle in the ring-fenced Italian marketplace according to the latest figures released by the country's gaming regulator Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli (AAMS) on its operator-restricted area of its website.

During September, Italy's regulator reported that online tournament entries decreased by 19 percent from €72.5 million in Sept. 2014 to €58.7 million in Sept. 2015. This resulted in a 17-percent drop in net revenues when comparing gaming operators recognizing €6.4 million in Sept. 2014 to realizing €5.3 in net revenues in Sept. 2015.

As Poker Industry Pro pointed out, this is the first month in awhile we can take a look at fair comparison of tournament data in Italy since the country's market leader PokerStars introduced Spin & Go's in Aug. 2014. These lottery-style games are assumed to believed to attract many recreational players that would normally be playing ring games.

However, it may not be a completely fair comparison yet, since whenever a new game is introduced, play is temporarily increased until the honeymoon is over and traffic settles down a bit.

Ring games didn't fair any better on regulated online poker rooms in Italy, with AAMS reporting a staggering 27-percent decline in wagering when comparing the €330 million reported in Sept. 2014 to the €242.2 million reported in Sept. 2015. Net revenues on ring games performed slightly better — but still not great — dropping 20 percent from €8.2 million recorded in Sept. 2014 to the €6.5 million recorded in Sept. 2015.

While it is easy for some analysts to offer reasons outside of a general declining marketplace for the drop in tournament entries and net revenue, it is hard to justify the same for ring games.

One reason for the decline in September of this year when compared to the same period a year ago is that Italy hosted its first ever World Series of Poker (WSOP) Circuit events. This may have detracted some of the higher-volume players from playing online, and opted to play on the live felts instead.

However, the impact of the WSOP Circuit events in Italy shouldn't have caused such a dramatic decline, and analysts are worried that the trend will continue in no small thanks due to the recent support of a "Digital Tax" by the country's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. This tax is little different than what many other countries recently started to impose with Economy Undersecretary Enrico Zanetti confirming last month that if the tax becomes law, it will be imposed on online gambling transactions.

All is not doom and gloom for online gaming operators in Italy, thanks to booms in both online casino and sports-betting verticals. Online casino games increased by 37.3 percent in the country, while online sports betting wasn't too far behind with a healthy 36.7 percent increase.

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