Coronavirus Affects Italian Betting Industry

The shutdown in Italy associated with the coronavirus outbreak has had a drastic effect on many sectors of the Italian economy, and the beleaguered Italian betting industry has been particularly badly hit by the enforced closures of business and amusement venues.

According to figures released this week, revenue from the Amusement With Prizes (AWP) sector, which includes a number of popular arcade games, has dropped by 22% during the coronavirus crisis, during which the government has closed many arcades and other gambling venues.

Figures show that during the opening week of the month, revenue from AWPs and Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs) had fallen by 33.3% on the figure from last year. And it is expected that the drop will continue as the action taken by the government in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus is set to expand. In the first week of March, the shutdown only affected gambling venues in Lombardy, but the shutdown has expanded since then, with all bingo and betting locations closed in many areas. Even in areas where venues are allowed to remain open, strict curfews have been imposed.

The downturn comes at a time when revenue in the sector was already in decline. New regulatory measures and tax changes had resulted in a revenue fall of 1.2% in January and 3.5% in February. VLT operators had been hit by new measures that require the use of a card to activate the terminals, and VLT revenue had fallen by 20.9% in February.

But the decline in land-based gambling has been matched by a surge in online betting as Italians increasingly stay at home. The online sector had already enjoyed a boost of up to 27% in spending during February, on top of a 15% increase in the last quarter of 2019, and as the coronavirus pandemic forces people to stay indoors, online gambling firms could be poised to benefit further.

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