The Italian sports betting industry has seen huge growth in the past few years and the biggest contributor is online betting, a new and still fresh sector that has allowed millions of soccer fans to bet on their favorite team. Bets are taken on all sports, of course, but soccer is certainly the biggest one in terms of participation, attendance, and betting. Following years of regulatory chaos and the legislative changes that followed, Italy’s sports betting sites are now thriving and betting fans are the ones who are reaping the benefits.
Interestingly, the country has a long tradition when it comes to gambling – betting on various games and events goes back to the Roman Empire and has never seized, it only went through many changes and forms. The world’s first commercial casino opened in 1638 in what is now perceived as Italy’s most beautiful, romantic city, Venice. Even the term “casino” is of Italian origin (from “casa”, which means a house). While in the past, only the rich could afford to visit the gambling houses or engage in betting on horses and other races, these activities have become much more accessible in modern times.
Similarly to many other European countries, Italy outlawed gambling in the early 20th century but various forms of skill-based gambling such as sports betting were available legally. With the emergence of the Internet and the liberalization of the gambling market, online betting rose in popularity. Local, as well as international sports betting operators, applied for licenses and eventually made the Italian sector the second-largest gambling industry in Europe, only after the United Kingdom.
Legality and Regulation of Sports Betting in Italy
Online betting services provided by private sports betting operators were, until recently, not available in Italy. Gambling, defined as games of chance, was illegal, while the skill-based sports betting was allowed but incredibly restricted. The only sportsbooks, land-based and online, were state-backed operators (Italian National Olympic Committee and the National Horse Breeders Enhancement Society) and the first changes started in the past decade when the market saw a significant liberalization following an investigation of the European Commission.
In 2006, the government was forced to introduce legal changes as the gambling regulation in Italy was not compatible with the policies of the European Union. Blocking non-Italian operators was considered infringement of the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide cross-border services defined in the EEC Treaty. The market was then opened to foreign operators as long as they were based within the EU or EFTA (European Free Trade Association). Gradually, the country started relaxing the legislation concerning other types of games and betting via Ministerial Decrees and amendments to various laws, including the Gambling Law.
Today, online sports betting can be offered by Italian and international companies that have licenses issued by the Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato (Autonomous Administration of the State Monopolies or AAMS). In order to successfully obtain a gambling or betting license from the Italian regulator, operators need to meet certain requirements and take part in public tenders. This administrative body is part of the national gambling authority called ADM (Italian Agency of Customs and Monopoly). The ADM is responsible for the regulation, control, and supervision of all land-based and online forms of gambling – casino games, poker, bingo, lotteries, social and skill games, betting on sports and horse races, and fantasy betting.
The tax regime for land-based and online sports betting operations has also changed in the past decade. Rather than based on turnover (the total sales generated by companies, also called income or gross revenue), the tax rate is now based on profit or GGR. The gross gaming revenue or GGR is the total bets minus the winnings paid to gamblers and this is the earnings before taxes and other expenses, so GGR is not technically the same as profit. Online sports betting operators are required to pay 22% of their GGR, whereas the tax rate for land-based sports betting operations is lower at 18% of GGR. In addition, they need to pay a mandatory €350,000 fee to the AAMS. Currently, a total of 120 gambling licenses have been issued.
Bettors, on the other hand, are not required to pay any taxes on their winnings. Another very important thing is that although it is illegal to bet on unlicensed sites, authorities have not taken legal action against players.
Key Sports Betting Laws
More than a dozen laws and decrees sanction and regulate the gambling industry in Italy but only a few rules deal with the specifics of sports betting. Betting on horse races, which is a traditional form of gambling for Italians, yet continuously fading in popularity, is regulated by Presidential Decree no. 169 (8 April 1998).
The Ministerial Decree no. 111 from 1 March 2006 allows and regulates sports betting on events other than horse races. It also regulates online fixed-odds betting and sports betting, including betting exchanges and live betting. In 2011, an ADM Decree introduced legal horserace betting online, while two years later, on 12 February 2013, the ADM issued another decree to regulate online virtual betting. In addition, system-based fixed odds bets in land-based establishments are allowed and regulated by ADM Decree dated 27 July 2016.
Italian Sporting Events Coverage and Markets
The Italian sports and sports betting scene is quite diverse, with various sporting events being broadcast on specialized channels on TV and online. Italians are known best, however, for their love of soccer or calcio as they call it. One of the forms of this sport originated in Florence in the 15th century and nowadays, soccer is, indeed, Italy’s national sport. Betting on Serie A of the Calcio, as well as on all matches of the Squadra Azzurra (the national team of the country, literally meaning “the blue team”) is extremely popular.
Of course, Italian betting sites offer many more soccer markets, including bets on popular tournaments such as the Champions League, FIFA World Cup, and many others. Other incredibly popular sports in the country are basketball, cycling, and volleyball and all sportsbooks cover the major leagues and events for the respective sport – NBA, NCAAB, Euroleague, Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and many more. The outrights on these sports are the most preferred markets, although betting sites would also offer lines, point spreads, totals, and props on basketball and volleyball.
Motorsports also enjoy huge popularity among sports fans and bettors in Italy, with Formula 1 races being the top events in this category. Of course, most people know that the country’s F1 team Ferrari is one of the most successful manufacturers in the history of the races. Along with wagering on F1, Italian bettors can also place outright bets on various other motorsport events such as Dakar Rally, the Grand Prix, MotoGP, or Nascar.
When speaking of sports betting in Italy, we cannot miss one particular winter sport, skiing. Only a few nations are famous for their skiing teams and skiers and Italy is certainly one of them. With more than 2 million skiers, the country is quite prolific in this sport and has received multiple medals in the Winter Olympic Games, the World Cup, and the World Championship. Outrights are usually available, as well as other types of bets, depending on the particular event. Sites also cover other winter sports such as biathlon and ski jumping.
Tennis is also quite popular in the country and fans can bet on the first set winner or on their favorite player to win outright. All major events are typically covered and often, bettors can enjoy live streams on their computer or mobile device. In fact, as most Italians watch sports and a large part of them also place bets on sporting events, betting sites that cater to Italian audiences would feature extensive live betting sections supported by live streams and statistics.
As some of the world’s leading sports betting operators have entered the local market, plenty of other sports are available to their customers. Bettors can wager on rugby, hockey, football (American football as it is known in Europe), baseball, boxing and MMA, golf, darts, pool and snooker, horse races and greyhounds. Bets on virtual sports, handball, cricket, badminton, and many others are also available.
Popular Odds Format in Italy
Odds are among the fundamentals in sports betting and they need to be understood well before bettors decide to put money on their favorite teams or athletes. They may seem quite complex at first glance but they are simply mathematical representations of the possible returns of a bet. In Italy, as in most European countries, decimal odds are typically used, although most of the large betting sites also offer their customers to opt for fractional or American odds, which are the other two main odds formats.
Before explaining the decimal odds, which are most commonly used in Italy, we should understand the concept of chance or of probability, to be exact. Every event, in a sports competition or in a game of chance, has a certain probability of happening. When rolling a dice, for instance, you know that the probability of each outcome happening is 1 out of six – it is 6 to 1 (6:1) or in percentages, 16.66%. The higher the percentage, the more probable an event is to happen.
While the probability is not directly related to the odds in sports betting, it is very useful being a successful bettor in the long term as it shows how likely a certain outcome is – for instance, how likely it is that Manchester United (which plays in the Premier League, the top league of English soccer) will defeat Reading F.C. (the second-tier league). In order to find out whether the odds offered on the match have true value, you need to compare them with the probability.
So, let us see the decimal odds. Unlike fractional odds, which show the profit, decimal odds indicate the possible returns – the winnings plus the bet amount. They show the returns for a single unit wagered. For example, if a betting site offers odds of 1.85 for Manchester United to win, this means that if your bet wins, you will receive $1.85 – for a $1 bet, you will earn $0.85. These odds come with a specific implied probability that can be calculated very easily – 1/1.85, which is 0.54 or 54%.
The odds then imply that the two teams Man United and Reading are almost equally likely to win, which every soccer fan would probably know well that is not true. In reality, Manchester is much more likely to win – the actual percentage should be higher and the potential winnings should be lower. You can then easily conclude that the odds offered by the sportsbook have great value.
Payment Solutions for Sports Bettors from Italy
Italian bettors can enjoy multiple payment solutions for fast and safe deposits or withdrawals of their winnings. Most of the online betting operators who are properly licensed and regulated by the AAMS and the ADM offer their customers to pay in Euro (EUR), as this is the currency Italy uses since 2002. However, many sites also allow payments in US dollars (USD) as this is one of the major and most popular currencies used around the world. Foreign operators would often offer a dozen different currencies.
When it comes to the payment processors available at Italian betting sites, they are more or less the same credit and debit cards, bank transfers, and e-wallets that you would find across Europe. Mastercard and Visa-branded cards are universally accepted in Italy, while Amex cards (American Express) would be available as payment methods at only some of the international sportsbooks. Often, credit and debit cards come with annual fees (up to €100) that must be taken into consideration.
Prepaid cards are also extremely popular among Italians and one particular brand is offered at almost all sports betting sites – Postepay. It is issued by the Italian Post Service and can be used for both online and in-store payments, for paying utility bills, ATM withdrawals, and many more. There are several different Postepay cards – Standard, Evolution, Connect, and Evolution Business and they use the payment systems of either Visa and Mastercard. Bettors can instantly deposit funds into online sportsbooks and they can even withdraw their winnings to some of these cards.
Digital wallets have also become quite widely accepted at Italian sports betting sites and due to their convenience, low costs, and fast processing, they are often preferred by bettors, as well. Italian betting fans can use Skrill, Neteller, and PayPal, although there may be some restrictions regarding betting and gambling-related transfers made via PayPal. There are also various alternative payment methods such as instant bank transfers, prepaid vouchers, and more.
One very popular option is MyBank, which allows Italian bettors to make deposits to sportsbooks directly from their banking accounts. This instant bank transfer system was launched several years ago by nine banking groups and is now available to the customers of around 30 financial institutions in the country. In addition, most sports betting sites, whether they are Italian or foreign operators, offer traditional bank transfers conducted via bettors’ online banking accounts. Cryptocurrencies, on the other hand, are not widely available as Bitcoin, Litecoin and similar currencies are not very popular in Italy.
Bonuses and Rewards for Italian Sports Bettors
Similarly to other European sportsbooks, Italian betting sites usually feature a wide range of promotions and bonuses that are designed to enhance the betting experience and attract new customers. There is no regulation that explicitly refers to the type of promotional offers that can be provided or not, so betting sites would try to provide bettors with the best bonuses possible in order to stay competitive.
The most common offers are the sign-up free bets that every sports betting fan receive after registering an account and depositing a small amount of money, usually $/€10 or $/€20. This free bet is not a cash bonus and is typically credited to the user account after a qualifying bet has been made and settled. The betting site then matches the wagered deposit 100% and gives the customer a free bet token that can be used for betting on certain markets. Any winnings generated from it can be withdrawn immediately. Some welcome bonuses would require bettors to make several bets and see them settled before giving them free bets. Usually, the value of the free bets ranges from $/€10 to $/€50. There is usually a maximum amount allowed and it rarely exceeds $/€200.
Other special offers available to bettors in Italy are the so-called cashback bonuses. Sometimes, they are given on all deposited funds that have been lost throughout the week, while in other cases, cashback is given only if you lose your bet on certain sports events. The cashback would be up to 40% of the wagered amount (although some sportsbooks offer more) and the bonus itself is given as a free bet that can be used on the betting site.
There are many other bonuses available to Italian bettors – sportsbooks offer various boosts on the winnings in a particular sport, league, or betting market. They also give enhanced odds on selected matches, events, or championships. Of course, all these come with its own set of terms and conditions that need to be considered in advance.
Customer Support at Italian Sports Betting Sites
All licensed betting sites available to Italian punters offer at least one or two ways for their customers to reach them – live chat, phone service, and email. Some of the large operators also have a social media presence and constantly interact with their members, providing them with sports news, betting tips, and various limited time promotions. Of course, in order to stay competitive, betting platforms are available in Italian, as well as a few other European languages such as English, German, and French.
Bettors in Italy can also rely on professional and trained support representatives fluent in Italian. There are many bookmakers and gambling-related sites, so in order to attract new punters and keep them entertained and engaged for a long time, good betting sites would try to do their best to guarantee customer satisfaction. This is why they would also offer different bonuses and free bets over email or directly in the live chat.