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The European Gambling and Betting Association (EGBA) has expressed concerns at a proposal by the Italian Government on a new tender for online gambling concessions which will limit the number of online gambling licensees in the country from 120 to 40 and increase online licensing fees to at least €2.5 million from 2023.

The EGBA has also called out the Italian Government for failing to notify the European Commission on the new draft law, “contrary to the requirements of the so-called notification directive”.

“Notification enables the Commission to scrutinise and determine whether proposed national laws are in full compliance with EU law,” it said in a statement.

The EGBA has contacted the Italian gambling authority to share its concerns and reminded the authority of its duty to notify its proposal to the European Commission.

It cautioned that the tender proposal would reduce the country’s current limit of 120 online gambling licensees to 40, a significant reduction by two thirds, and seeks to increase licensing fees to at least €2.5 million, 10 times larger than the country’s previous licensing fees.

Licensing fees would also be determined through an auction process rather than through a fixed licensing fee like in other European countries, the EGBA observed.

The proposal would take effect from 1st January 2023, at the end of the current licensing term, and apply for nine years.

While the EGBA “appreciates the discretion, within certain boundaries, of EU member states to set the cost for gambling licences in their jurisdiction, this is an extremely high concession fee and, coupled with the drastic reduction of the number of online gambling licensees, would be a major barrier to a well-functioning market.”

This could potentially also, EGBA believes, weaken the viability of the country’s regulated and licensed online gambling market, in favour of unlicensed operators who can easily be found online by players in Italy.

“If the new tender would enter into force unchanged, it could become much more attractive for players in Italy to look for and play with unregulated operators, who would have much better offers and betting odds because they will not have to pay these fees or taxes.

Those players would no longer be protected by Italian consumer protection and gambling legislation, which would be contrary to the stated objective of the regulated online gambling market in Italy, the EGBA warned.

“We have asked the Italian authorities to duly notify the draft legislation to the European Commission. Notification is required by European law, and failure to do so will render the law inapplicable to Italian-licensed companies and citizens. The Commission’s careful scrutiny of this proposal is needed, also to make sure that the draft legislation will not be contrary to the consumer protection objectives of the Italian online gambling legislation,” said Maarten Haijer, Secretary-General of the EGBA.

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