Italian communications authority issues new guidelines softening the restrictions on gambling and betting advertisements provided by the decreto dignità

On April 18, 2019, through resolution no. 132/19/CONS, the Italian Communications Authority (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni) issued guidelines (Guidelines) to implement the provisions of Article 9 of Italian Law Decree no. 87/2018 (the so called “Dignity Decree”).

Article 9 of the Dignity Decree prohibits any form of advertising, sponsorship or communication presenting promotional content relating to games or betting with cash prizes. The objective pursued by the Italian Communications Authority is to coordinate the new rules with the complex regulatory framework on the subject and the principles set forth in the Italian Constitution and by the European Union.

The ban covers any form of advertising, including indirect advertising, relating to games or betting with cash prizes, however carried out and by any means, including TV and radio broadcasting, the press, billboards, internet, digital and electronic tools, and social media. Other than the traditional forms of advertising, Article 5 paragraph 2 also bans product placement and prize-winning events as defined by Italian Presidential Decree no. 240 of October 26, 2001. Furthermore, the provision specifically addresses influencers, as it reflects the approach adopted by the Italian Competition Authority (Autorità della Concorrenza e del Mercato) in safeguarding consumers from certain advertising initiatives. Additionally, the Guidelines clarify that existing advertising agreements as of July 14, 2018 will remain valid for a year or until their expiration date, if earlier. As of January 11, 2019, Article 6 paragraph 2 extends the time exemption to include sponsorship agreements as well.

However, while the goal is to provide a high degree of consumer protection, the Guidelines do exclude certain activities from the ban. In particular, Article 7 allows:

• business-to-business commercial communications;
• cause-related marketing communications (aimed at associating a company’s brand with social and ethical initiatives);
• the organization of paid gaming fairs directed exclusively at sector operators;
• corporate social responsibility communications, (such as informational campaigns on banned games or games only prohibited to minors, legal gambling information, the risks of loan-sharking, courses on gambling addiction, or the implementation of precautionary measures in relation to problematic gamblers) without displaying a brand or logo;
• teleshopping for goods and services related to paid games (only when certain conditions are met);
• etc.

The Guidelines also clarify that services providing information on the different odds offered by competing bookmakers, such as the so-called “odds spaces” (spazi quote) or the columns hosted by television or web sports programs, are excluded from the ban. Additionally, algorithm-based free indexing services provided directly by search engines or a marketplace (such as Apple Store or Google Play) that enable operators to obtain a higher placement in search results are also excluded.

Overall, the Guidelines aim for a high degree of consumer protection, with particular emphasis on “vulnerable” categories (gambling addicts, minors, and seniors) by ensuring transparency of conditions and services offered in order to promote an educated gaming choice. Consumer protection is also ensured by using the recognizable logos of the Customs and Monopolies Agency, making it easier to distinguish between illegal and authorized games offering cash prizes.

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