Italy debates sports betting tax hike

Ministers are debating an additional 0.3% levy on sports betting collections.
Ministers are debating an additional 0.3% levy on sports betting collections.

Ministers in Italy are weighing up the introduction of a new tax hike on sports betting collections to finance a “Save Sport” fund.

Italy.- Ministers in Italy are today expected to make a decision on the possible introduction of a new tax hike on sports betting to create a Salva Sport, or “Save Sport” fund.

The Italian Football Federation had initially proposed a 1 per cent tax increase on sports betting to finance a new fund aimed at revitalising the country’s national sports system following the Coronavirus lockdown.

Ministers took up the call and rapidly put forward a draft bill that settled on a figure of 0.75 per cent. \

But following an outcry from betting firms and trade associations, the initial draft was amended late yesterday to reduce the proposed tax rise to 0.3 per cent.

If the bill is passed in its current form by the Chamber of Ministers today, the tax hike will apply to collections by volume from the date the decree comes into force up until December 31, 2022.

It will apply to all forms of sports betting, whether in person or online.

The Italian betting trade associations Acadi, Sistema Gioco Italia, As.tro, E.M.I.Rebus and FIEGL all voiced strong opposition to the proposed tax hike.

Massimiliano Pucci, President of As.Tro, said: “The increase in tax would have a dramatic impact on the betting sector and, consequently, on the entire public gaming system at a time when the ongoing health emergency is already bringing the country’s economic system to its knees.

“This measure would force operators to make drastic choices with heavy repercussions on employment,” he added.

It’s estimated that the revised figure of 0.3 per cent would equate to additional tax payments of around €50million a year for an industry that still has no definitive date for a return to business post-lockdown.

Trade associations say the industry is being discriminated against and has been offered no support from the government during the crisis. Leaders claim many smaller firms could face bankruptcy.

Stefano Papalia, President of Federazione Italiana Esercenti Gioco Legale, the Italian Federation of Legal Game Operators (FIEGL), which was founded earlier this year, said:

“If the world of football needs help, the government will have to find the necessary resources without affecting the companies that work in our country; companies that at this moment expect from the government to be protected and helped, not sunk.”

Corrado Luca Bianca, National Coordinator at FIEGL, added: “We are tired of being the country’s ATM. We have people and families who work and rely on the salaries that are paid by the companies that our entrepreneurs have opened.

“We ask for responsible choices from the government that are sustainable from an economic point of view. For this purpose we are willing to make a civil and constructive debate, transmitting, if needed, our company budgets, to make people understand how any contribution or further increase of taxation would have a major impact on the survival of companies operating in the legal gaming sector.”

Giorgio Pastorino, President of the union Sindacato Totoricevitori Sportivi (STS) said: “While we still do not see a reopening date for the physical collection of bets, neither in dedicated stores, nor in our tobacconists who have instead continued to provide other essential services, we would have expected anything but a new tax, even if it is with the noble purpose of helping Italian sport.”

He added that the increase in taxation would decrease winnings offered to players, pushing gamblers to a more competitive illegal sector.

The trade association E.M.I.Rebus has proposed holding a public demonstration against the tax hike in Rome on June 2 if the Council of Ministers approves the bill.

In March, Italy’s Serie A asked the government to lift gambling ad restrictions.

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