Figures coming out of Italy usually show the gambling industry enjoying a robust health. The same can not be said about all the players, claim the proponents of a recent initiative, aimed at limiting the industry.
Forty mayors from Italy’s largest and most populous region of Lombardy have got together to demand the national government to amend Italian gambling laws.
Now, slots have been the most popular form of gambling ever since their invention, and it is no different in Italy. (That popularity also translates into online success: since online casinos in Italy were allowed to offer slot games at the end of last year, industry revenues have jumped by 80%.)
When comparing Italy’s 20 regions, Lombardy could easily claim the title of the “gamblingest” one, featuring the highest per capita spending at the slots.
This also means an increased percentage of problem gamblers and criminal activities, and politicians who pledge to do something about it. As reported by Italian gambling news outlets, the National Coordination of Gamblers’ Groups estimates that as many as 14% of such machines installed in 2011-2012 caused a negative social impact.
The main issue that the mayors complain about is a lack of comprehensive and enforceable regulation.
“Right now this sector is not regulated. It is allowed to install machines anywhere — bars, restaurants, we have even had reports of some in pharmacies,” protested Angela Fioroni, spokeswoman for the regional administration, adding that “mayors have no decision-making power over the opening of game rooms and the location of the machines.”
Among the demands are a ban on placing slots and video terminals near schools, hospitals, and other ‘sensitive’ locations. The mayors would also like to see the suspension of new machine licensing until the rules are altered.
Moreover, they demand to have the authority to regulate gambling on a local level, including the distribution of revenues from the machines.
This latter claim has sparked a bit of a controversy, leading some anti-gambling advocates to believe that the whole initiative could backfire, with mayors trying to grab more funds for their respective budgets.
“We believe this could trigger a short circuit in which community politicians may believe that gambling is a possible source of revenue rather than a problem — socially expensive — to resolve,” said Maurizio Vanetti, a spokesman for gambling-free cafe directory site Senzaslot.