Italy has become the first country in Europe to ban advertising on betting, its government announced on Tuesday, amid criticism from football clubs which benefit from the ads.
The country’s Deputy Premier, Luigi Di Maio, said at a news conference that “I think this is an industry that has become a bit too big, at the expense of people’s health and dignity: we are going to cut it down in size.”
Di Maio, who serves as industry and welfare minister, said gambling was ruining families and weighing on the budget of the National Health Service.
According to Italy’s National Research Council, 400,000 people had a gambling problem in 2017, in a fourfold increase from 10 years earlier.
A cabinet meeting decided the clampdown on Monday, in spite of criticism from the betting industry and from football clubs, which often rely on sponsorship from betting firms.
Claudio Fenucci, chief executive of Serie A team Bologna, was quoted by Il Messaggero daily as denouncing the government’s “crazy” move as depriving football clubs of 100 million Euros (116 million dollars).
“The only result will be to humiliate Italian football fans, whose teams will have less money at their disposal,’’ Deborah Bergamini of the opposition Forza Italia party said.
Forza Italia is the party of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, whose family owns the private TV network Mediaset, which risks losing revenue from banned advertising deals.
Di Maio said his anti-establishment Five Star Movement had long promised the ban, and criticised “famous people,” such as retired star footballer Francesco Totti, who appear in betting ads. (dpa/NAN)