Online Poker in Italy Enjoys a Rare Upswing

September 13th, 2015 | by Brian Corlisse
Online poker tournament revenue up in Italy.

A glimmer of hope for the Italian online poker community after MTT revenue increases by 1.3 percent. (Image: rwsp.net)

Italian online poker sites have taken something of a beating in recent months as far as cash game traffic is concerned, but there appears to a glimmer of hope on the horizon in the form of tournaments.

The latest figures show that gross gaming revenues from tournaments across the country’s regulated online poker sites have seen an increase of 1.3 percent in the first eight months of 2015.

Helping to push this revenue to €48.2 million ($54.6 million) in 2015 is the presence of lottery style tournaments such as PokerStars’ Spin & Go games.

Tournaments Up, Cash Games Down

However, as positive as this might be, cash game revenue has continued to experience dramatic drops in recent months and it looks as though no amount of MTT cash will reverse this trend.

As it stands, Italian cash game revenue has dropped consistently for the last four years and, in the period between January and August 2015, the country’s operators only managed to earn €56.6 million ($64.2 million).

This figure is 23.8 percent lower than the same period in 2014 and a signal that something needs to change if the industry is to avoid a complete collapse.

In fact, another worrying sign for Italy’s iGaming economy in the last few months is the decline of online bingo.

Although casino revenue is up by almost 28 percent, bingo revenues have dropped by 8.8 percent in the last year.

European Commission Could Help Italy

One potentially positive development for Italian online poker players was the recent statement by the European Commission.

Prompted by Malta’s European Parliament Member, David Casa, the governing body is now reviewing whether member states with iGaming laws are in breach of free trade and movement within the European Union laws.

The issue under the spotlight is the stipulation made by some countries that licensed iGaming operators must have a physical presence in the country they wish to serve. Italy, along with Spain and France, is one of the countries that impose this condition on online poker and casino sites.

However, if the European Commission review suggests that this breaches free trade movement then it could be forced to remove this clause from its licensing conditions.

While this probably won’t prevent countries from only permitting iGaming within their borders, it could be the first step in opening up Europe and making it a more free-flowing industry.

Regardless of the European Commission’s actions, Italy clearly needs to do something if it’s going to reverse the current downswing both operators and players have been going through for many months.

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