How the Italian horseracing market will change forever this summer

05.06.2019

Fabio Massimo Molinari, our Commercial Director chats to EGR Compliance about the regulatory changes coming to Italian horseracing this summer as Italian punters look set to benefit from global access to horseracing for the first time.

For years, Italian facing operators offering betting on horseracing have been limited to a certain schedule of horseraces, known as the Palinsesto Complementare (Complementary Schedule). This list is overseen by the Italian regulator, Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli, with betting on races outside the schedule strictly controlled and subject to approval by the ADM.

However, Italian regulators recently announced a relaxation of these rules, ending restrictions on broadcasting of and betting on international horseracing. This change in access opens the door to a new tranche of customers for Italy facing operators just in time to counterbalance the loss of revenues resulting from Italy’s ban on gambling advertising.

Fabio Molinari, Italy commercial director for Vermantia walks EGR Compliance through the changes, and how they might open crucial new markets for Italian punters.

EGR Compliance: What does the relaxation of the Palinsesto Complementare entail?

Fabio Molinari (FM): Thanks to the recent announcement from Italy’s Customs and Monopolies (Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli) Italian horseracing fans are set for an exciting summer. For many years the country’s regulator has enforced protectionist policies to safeguard revenues around its own racing. Strict rules have ensured a focus on a schedule of Italian events and a limited number of international ones via the national horseracing programme, Palinsesto Nazionale. But these are set to be relaxed in July for the first time in the nation’s history, with no restrictions on screening content from abroad.

EGR Compliance: What does the relaxation of regulations mean for customers?

FM: This will transform the way Italian bettors engage with global horseracing. While previously any international racing event broadcast by Italian bookmakers would have to conform to the time slots established by the Palinesto Nazionale, customers will soon be able to enjoy the best of live racing from around the world at any time of day – from Santa Anita in California to Ellerslie in New Zealand – with every racetrack in between.

EGR Compliance: And for operators and suppliers?

FM: Not only is this excellent news for the consumer who wishes to bet on racing from around the world, it also offers a world of opportunities for the sportsbooks themselves. The ability to expand their offering beyond the traditional fixtures could be a major boost for customer acquisition and retention.
It is also especially timely given the Italian government’s ban on advertising by gaming companies coming into force on July 14th. Any restrictions on promotion can now be mitigated by the expansion of content acting as a marketing tool in its own right. As we have seen in other markets, live racing data and pictures from across the world’s race tracks adds excitement and offers a new betting experience.

EGR Compliance: What do you think is the motivation behind the Italian government’s decision?

FM: I believe this is all about putting Italy back on the map. The process began several years ago to re-launch the historical value of horse racing in Italy in terms of betting and this is part of that. It is in the Italian government’s interest to provide a welcome boost to the market – as any economic analyst will tell you, markets always flourish under lighter regulation and greater competition.
Insular, protectionist policies are never conducive to business growth, and this relaxation in regulation is no doubt the first step forward looks to bring Italy back to the centre of the world for both Italian horse racing, as well as for the racetracks themselves. This move will allow a more competitive environment in line with what’s on offer internationally, as well as giving the chance for Italian industry to up their game.

EGR Compliance: Why do you think the Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli took so long to make this decision?

FM: In a nutshell, one can say politics. The Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli knows the market well and is a direct stakeholder in the outcome – and no doubt wants the best for all involved. ADM also wants to give a real opportunity to the industry to have a real renaissance, which takes time.
In Italy you must assume that with more than 40 racing tracks, thousands of families and employees that depend on the sector, the first actions of this ‘renaissance’ are the most important ones, and it had to be done right – without disrupting an entire industry.

EGR Compliance: Do you see the relaxation quite timely given the gambling ad ban coming into force this summer?

FM: Without question, the advertising ban and the relaxation of the Palensesto Complementare are most likely corelated. However, the reasons, may not be so clear to those outside of the market.
In my view, the Italian government believes that responsible gaming needs tools to communicate the risk – such as is this ad ban, but also wants to seek out ways to improve the industry without relying on advertising. Of course, the relaxation of the Palensesto Complementare is an effective way of doing that – by helping the business model to renew itself, while giving itself even greater visibility.

EGR Compliance: Do you think this relaxation in regulation will create greater interest in the Italian market?

FM: Based on historical trends, I’m sure it will. Italy is a country that inspires the international betting industry to innovate. Whether that be number or shops, figures or volume of business, but also in terms of technology. The value of Ippica (horse racing) is clear already – and the love of action-packed, live betting events is already well known to both domestic and international operators.

EGR Compliance: Do you think the Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli is keen to attract more international interest?

FM: Horse racing is a rich part of Italian tradition, but the last few decades of protectionist policies have not had their intended consequence. The industry needs more competition, more variation, and a greater spread of racing events to provide an opportunity to bet. I also believe that on a business-level (call it macroeconomic), Italy needs to be doing more in general to attract more investment and export its know-how, so yes.
It makes sense that Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli wants to make the industry more attractive internationally, as well as increasing the allure of the market, however – one must respect the previous regulations that were in place. Italy is very proud of its local racing, and any international partner looking to enter the market needs to ensure they strike a balance between domestic and international racing.

EGR Compliance: Following the relaxation in regulations, what do you think the greatest challenge will be now?

FM: The greatest challenge of course for Italian and international bookmakers will be to capitalise on this opportunity. With a wealth of data and content at their fingertips, they must now present it in a way that entices the consumer to try it out. The Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli should of course be on hand to ensure that new operators are enticed to the market, however both operators and suppliers should also bear in mind that the Italian market requires a bespoke approach with an understanding of what it is that make Italian bettors tick.

EGR Compliance