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Unlicensed Gambling and Italy’s Black Market: A Billion-Euro Shadow Industry

Unlicensed Gambling

Italy’s underground online gambling scene is now estimated to be nearly as lucrative as the combined regulated online gambling revenues of eight other European Union countries, with an annual worth close to €1 billion. This alarming statistic comes from a recent analysis by La Gazzetta dello Sport, which also found that a substantial 75% of this, amounting to €18.5 billion, is funneled into unlicensed gambling sites.

EGBA’s Alarming Findings

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has deduced from these figures that Italy’s legitimate online gross gaming revenue is significantly undercut by the black market, with nearly €1 billion potentially diverted annually. This diversion is particularly troubling as it often leads Italian gamblers to platforms outside the EU, lacking even the most fundamental consumer protections.

ADM’s Response to the Crisis

In response to this growing issue, Italy’s Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM) has escalated its crackdown, blocking over 9,800 unlicensed gambling websites in the current year—a figure that has already surpassed the total for the previous year by 400, indicating the escalating nature of the problem.

The Importance of Consumer Protection

EGBA emphasizes the importance of customer protection and condemns gambling sites that target EU citizens without adhering to EU laws and consumer safety standards. The association urges Italian authorities to enhance efforts in educating Italian gamblers about the dangers of using unlicensed platforms, particularly those outside the EU, and to promote awareness of legally compliant operators within Italy.

The Case of 1xBit Casino

1xBit Casino, an online gambling platform, has been noted for its extensive offerings in the world of online betting. As a cryptocurrency casino, it provides a wide array of games and betting options, including sports betting, slots, and live dealer games. However, platforms like 1xBit operate in a gray area within Italian jurisdiction, as they are not licensed by the ADM. While they offer anonymity and accessibility through cryptocurrency, they may not adhere to the stringent consumer protection laws that regulated Italian sites are subject to. This highlights the need for clear regulations and consumer education on the risks associated with such platforms.

Navigating the Risks of Unlicensed Gambling

Unlicensed gambling has become a global concern with the rise of the internet. While it offers the allure of anonymity and potentially higher returns, it carries significant risks that often go unnoticed by the average gambler.

Understanding Unlicensed Gambling Unlicensed gambling refers to betting activities that operate outside the regulatory framework established by authorities. These platforms lack the necessary permissions to legally offer gambling services, which can lead to a host of issues for both the player and the industry.

The Hidden Dangers of Unlicensed Gambling Platforms The primary risk of engaging with unlicensed gambling sites is the lack of consumer protection. These sites may not adhere to fair play standards, potentially rigging games to the house’s advantage. Moreover, they may not offer secure transactions, putting players’ financial data at risk.

The Impact on Tax Revenue and Public Services Unlicensed gambling also has broader societal impacts. It diverts potential tax revenues away from governments, which could have been used to fund public services. This shadow economy thus undermines the benefits that regulated gambling can offer to society at large.

The Challenge of Enforcement Combatting unlicensed gambling is a significant challenge for authorities. These operations are often based in jurisdictions with little to no gambling regulation, making international cooperation and enforcement difficult.

The Role of Player Awareness Players have a crucial role in curbing unlicensed gambling by staying informed and choosing to gamble on licensed and regulated platforms. Awareness campaigns and education about the risks associated with unlicensed gambling can help protect individuals and the integrity of the gambling industry.

Call for Regulatory Reform

Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of EGBA, expressed concern over the size of Italy’s online black market, attributing it to the country’s stringent advertising policies for licensed gambling companies. He pointed out that the current ban on advertising is inadvertently giving an edge to unlicensed operators. Without adequate advertising, Italian consumers struggle to distinguish between licensed websites, which comply with Italy’s consumer protection laws, and those that do not, such as 1xBit Casino. Haijer calls for a revision of the advertising regulations to enable Italians to make informed choices about licensed gambling websites.

About EGBA

The EGBA, representing major EU-based online gambling operators, advocates for a well-regulated online gambling market that prioritizes consumer protection and reflects the digital nature of consumer demand. Its member companies, which hold a collective 267 online gambling licenses, cater to over 31 million customers across 22 European countries, representing roughly a third of Europe’s online gambling gross gaming revenue (GGR).

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