Italy ready for esports betting with regulation in place

Katy Micallef 1 year ago
Italy ready for esports betting with regulation in place

When it comes to betting on esports in Italy, there have been some important markers of progress over the past 2 years. Non-endemic organisations have increased their involvement in Italian esports, the FIFA esports landscape is changing and there have been some rocky but successful steps on the regulation front. Dasha Kirilishina, Senior Sales Manager at PandaScore takes a deeper look.

Nuances to the Italian esports betting market

Italy-esports betting
Dasha Kirilishina, Senior Sales Manager at PandaScore.

Every market has its own nuances, be it regulation, bettor tastes, marketing opportunities and more. Italy shares many of the benefits of other European jurisdictions, but comes with key nuances that impact esports betting.

The most notable caveat for the Italian market is the absence of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Current legislation means that operators cannot offer CS:GO, the most popular esport for betting across the globe. Despite this, there are strong followings in the country around League of Legends, one of the other ‘Big 3’ esports betting titles, as well as an incredibly passionate FIFA scene.

While Counter-Strike being off the table for operators targeting Italy is a drawback, one silver lining is that you can devote those marketing and acquisition resources elsewhere. CS:GO ordinarily commands a decent chunk of your esports betting marketing spend (and rightly so), but with those resources freed up, there are greater opportunities for more interesting and engaging campaigns across other popular titles.

Additionally, the large-scale ban on gambling advertising in Italy dating back to 2018 might seem like a restriction, but actually puts Italian operators in an advantageous position when they market esports betting. Many operators in the Italian market pivoted to building out media and content wings as a means of reaching their target audience, including partnering with leading football clubs to create sports content. These kinds of operations are exactly what esports bettors are interested in and resonate within almost every market, meaning Italian operators already have the blueprint for creating engaging esports betting campaigns.

Sports simulation huge in Italy

Esports tastes in Italy are a little different to what you might find elsewhere in Europe, with sports simulation games proving to be much more popular. Football-simulation titles like FIFA is a staple in the Italian esports scene, with many domestic and international esports teams fielding esports teams, often in partnership with big football clubs.

One recent example is the Italian esports organisation Mkers partnering with football giant Inter Milan. The Nerazurri see it as an important step in engaging with younger audiences, while Mkers welcome the additional resources, infrastructure and collaboration.

Considering game publisher Electronic Arts (EA) announced that it will no longer make FIFA-branded football games, instead producing its own branded game, it’s likely we’ll see a split in football simulation esports across the newly branded EA Sports FC title and Konami’s eFootball title. The changing landscape of football simulation esports is one that suppliers and operators alike are watching closely.

We’re seeing Italy already take early steps in this direction, with a Coppa eFootball Italia tournament being announced late last year. The competition serves as an activation for 7 leading Italian clubs, including AC Milan, AC Monza, AS Roma, Atalanta, Inter Milan, Lazio, and Napoli, with a youth player, esports pro and selected fan all forging a team to compete for the cup.

Regulation has come around, with a bit of controversy

Italy made headlines across the gambling and esports spheres last year when the regulator shut down several esports gaming halls and seized their equipment, including gaming PCs, for allegedly breaching iGaming VLT regulations. Following a review by the Italian Undersecretary of Finance, it was found that the breach was the result of unclear regulation – a gaming PC isn’t the same as a physical slot machine.

Good has come out of this, with recognition of esports and more specific regulation on the cards. Clearer definitions of what esports is will have positive benefits for operators, who will have clear guidelines to follow just as they do with offering sports betting.

This is in contrast to many other jurisdictions where esports is in an in-between space, or regulated on an event-by-event basis like in the US, putting Italy in a good position to harness the popularity of esports in the country.

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