Italy is a country known for its rich history, delicious food and beautiful landscapes, it also boasts a significant gaming industry which has recently been the subject of debates on upcoming regulatory changes.
The reform of the gaming offer has been in the pipeline for some time, the proposed changes, labeled by some as reorganization, will also have to be shared by the various local authorities who have implemented their own rules for the installation and operation of face-to-face gaming.
Considering the evolution of consumer behavior and the fierce competition, the editorial staff of Jamma organized a virtual round table and interviewed the representatives of some important suppliers, who have already gained success in the Italian market, asking them how it could evolve, why it should do it and where the gaming market could go in the future.
At present, why is Italy an important market both for you and for the sector as a whole?
Alessandra Rosati, Account Manager for Italy of Playson: Italy is still the first regulated market in the EU. The market has experienced significant growth over the last couple of years and we have seen the pandemic be a catalyst for the migration of gaming to online which in turn has propelled new approaches within the industry such as multi-channel affiliation. The reality remains that Italy is a well developed and very competitive market, offering room for more operators and suppliers to thrive, we strongly believe there are opportunities for further growth.
Mariachiara Lagravinese, Gaming Realms Regional Account Manager: Italy is the second largest regulated iGaming market in Europe. It has developed a strong community of committed and skilled gamers which has inevitably made it important to the industry at large. Furthermore, Italian land-based casinos are limited in scope: only four are available in the entire country. This has undoubtedly increased the appetite for online content, in an industry dominated by online casinos and slot games. The presence of Gaming Realms on the Italian market has grown in recent years and players have found an affinity with our unique Slingo titles. Having the opportunity to play a game that offers a blend of traditional slot gameplay and blends with the mechanics found in vertical bingo creates a distinct and enjoyable match for the players preferences. Slingo also aligns with some features present in the famous “Lottery”, which Italian players already enjoy on a regular basis.
Mike CollinsThunderkick Product Owner: In terms of industry, Italy is certainly a consolidated market. It was one of the first countries to enforce online gambling regulations, which is why it has essentially become a mainstay of this industry. We are also one of Italy's favorite slot studios due to our localized approach and focus on good quality games!
Krasimir Pankovsky, Sales Manager of 3 Oaks Gaming: Italy is the second largest regulated market in Europe, so there is certainly a lot of interest from us to get a good market share within the region. Gaming activity and demand is also very high at the moment, with their local standards and player preferences. Players know exactly what they're looking for in Italy, so it's vital that we do our research and see what the trends are. Any licensed supplier wants to diversify their volume into regulated markets and make their presence felt, so Italy is very attractive in terms of population and audience. Providing quality content and promotions is vital to establishing an footprint in such a mature jurisdiction.
Elliott Scales (Kalamba Games): Italy is considered an important market in the online casino industry for several reasons. Italy has a population of over 60 million people, making it one of the largest markets in Europe. This significant population gives online casino operators a substantial customer base to target and attract. The Italian regulated market was introduced in 2010 and is therefore one of the most consolidated. Its legacy provides a sense of security and legitimacy for both operators and players, fostering a thriving industry. This is partly due to the cultural importance of the game for Italians, who have enjoyed lotteries, sports betting and casino games for many years. This cultural predisposition makes for a lively market and, of course, is ideal for studios like Kalamba. We entered the market in 2021 and have enjoyed great commercial success ever since.
Compared to other European countries, how does the Italian market differ in terms of demographics of players/bettors and top games?
Alessandra Rosati, Account Manager for Italy of Playson: The Italian gaming market has different characteristics compared to other European countries. Italy has a regulated online gaming market and its players engage in various forms of iGaming, including online slots. The Italian iGaming market has shown a preference for a diverse range of online slots, with both classic and modern themes being very popular. Italian players often enjoy slots with engaging game features, attractive visuals, ease of play and bonus rounds, and our data indicates that Italian players have a strong sense of nostalgia for content referencing the country's rich history. In terms of gamer behavior, Italians tend to be passionate about gaming and have a significant interest in iGaming. Online slots are among the favorite choices of Italian players due to their accessibility and entertainment value. However, it is essential to note that player preferences can vary and that there can be individual differences within the market. It is important to keep in mind that the iGaming landscape is dynamic and subject to change. Regulations, player preferences and market trends may evolve over time.
Mariachiara Lagravinese, Gaming Realms Regional Account Manager: Slingo titles from Gaming Realms consistently score particularly well with female audiences and more recreational players than other providers. In Italy, this is further compounded by the fact that players appreciate the mix of bingo and Slingo mechanics that we offer. This unique selling point has also attracted a number of high profile operators who have gained additional cross-selling opportunities to these players through our portfolio, increasing retention and acquisition rates. In the Italian market players are attracted by classical themes more than in other jurisdictions and titles with an Egyptian and Roman theme are generally the best performers. Book of Slingo, our Egypt-inspired hit, was initially made for the Italian market. It proved successful by aligning itself with the popular Egyptian aesthetic that gamers naturally gravitate towards. Additionally, licensed games such as Slingo Davinci Diamonds and Slingo Sweet Bonanza have attracted many new players to the Slingo format and have proved successful in the market.
Mike CollinsThunderkick Product Owner: Players in Italy are looking above all for transparency, quality and high playability. Therefore, they trust only those brands that approach them with high quality slot products. Italians love casual gambling in shops and bars – it is undeniable that it is integrated into their culture – but the majority of online players are millennials. But perhaps surprisingly, more and more gamers over 60 are embracing online gaming, becoming more tech-savvy than ever before.
Krasimir Pankovsky, Sales Manager of 3 Oaks Gaming: There are gamers who still prefer to spend their time exploring classic titles and mechanics, rather than going the route of learning about new releases on the market. Our captivating selection of Hold and Win titles will allow us to present a diverse range of slots, offering players unique content to sample. The Hold and Win mechanic allows us to deliver games that leave a lasting legacy for players, but we can also add subtle twists to a classic mechanic, resulting in a refresh of each of our Hold and Win slots that become visible.
Elliott Scales (Kalamba Games): Online slots are very popular in the Italian market, and in terms of player preferences and revenue generation, their market share on the overall gambling market continues to grow compared to other popular verticals such as poker and betting sports. Italians' preferences for slots tend to mirror those of many other European regulated markets. Italy's land-based heritage sees a huge demand for online games being ported from there to online, which is reflected in the slots top ten rankings, but more modern and bespoke titles from industry-leading providers are also gaining traction.
With the Italian government pushing for new regulation of the sector, how do you think this will affect operations in the future?
Alessandra Rosati, Account Manager for Italy of Playson: Regulatory changes can lead to market consolidation, as smaller operators may find it difficult to meet new regulatory requirements. Larger and more established operators, which have the necessary resources and infrastructure, are better positioned to adapt to the new regulations. Government regulations often aim to improve player protection and responsible gaming practices. Such regulations can ensure a safer environment for players. Depending on specific regulations, there may be restrictions on some types of advertising, games, promotional activities or payment methods. This can impact the range of offerings and innovative features that operators can provide to players.
Mariachiara Lagravinese, Gaming Realms Regional Account Manager: Online regulation in Italy is constantly developing and changing, as is the case in most regulated markets. This is to ensure players are well protected and we believe this is the right approach in all jurisdictions. Regulatory challenges primarily affect operators and affect how they market their products. These ever-changing restrictions therefore have a large effect on player acquisition. Operators focus more on retaining existing players rather than acquiring new ones. Our successful Slingo titles have a retention rate far higher than the industry average, which means that our games naturally help our operating partners increase players.
Mike CollinsThunderkick Product Owner: Italian market regulation is already considerably strong as it is now. However, the gambling industry is strongly linked to Italian politics and government. Thus, the rules become stricter depending on which political party and leader wins the election. Most operators are already doing their best to be compliant and offer players a clear message and a clear game – this will remain the same, but there is a chance that things will get more difficult with even stricter regulations in the future .
Krasimir Pankovsky, Sales Manager of 3 Oaks Gaming: Authorized operators may be forced to revise their plans if new regulations are introduced, which will have a knock-on effect on distributors and suppliers. This will be the government's third attempt to reform the game in Italy in the last eight years, but the previous two attempts fell on deaf ears due to opposing voices. I believe that here too the opposition will be strong, as one of the main clauses proposed is the adjustment of payments to players. If that happens, we'll need a plan for making games in the future, but we always feel one step ahead of our competitors thanks to frequent market assessment.
Elliott Scales (Kalamba Games): We don't get too concerned with how operators handle changing regulatory demands, but from what we've seen, they have a remarkable ability to remain flexible to respond to any regulatory changes. The industry has always been able to react quickly and intelligently to changes that have occurred over the years and I don't think it will be any different in the future. They will focus on product and service quality and reap the rewards.
What will the Italian market be like for the rest of 2023 and beyond?
Alessandra Rosati, Account Manager for Italy of Playson: The iGaming industry has experienced significant growth worldwide and the Italian regulated market is expected to continue to evolve in the coming years. Some possible directions for the Italian iGaming market include continued growth, technological advances, regulatory changes, a focus on player protection, and further innovation and competition.
Mariachiara Lagravinese, Gaming Realms Regional Account Manager: As one of the largest regulated markets in Europe, I believe we will see more consolidation of players looking to optimize marketing costs. I also think that as more providers and more content come to market, the behavior of operators will adapt and as a result we will see more innovation. Content differentiation will be key for operators to attract new players and, in turn, retain them. Thinking that all games work in all markets is the biggest mistake that suppliers make, there is a need for localization and Italy shares this need perfectly.
Mike CollinsThunderkick Product Owner: We expect the Italian market to get stronger and stronger. He is one of the few in Europe that has shown real potential so far, as well as showing an incredible level of player support. Many illegal casinos have been shut down and gone out of business, and entering this market requires a real commitment from the operators. More and more studios continue to focus their commercial strategy on entering or expanding on the Italian market, which will surely contribute to increasing its importance and prestige on the world stage.
Krasimir Pankovsky, Sales Manager of 3 Oaks Gaming: Despite concerns about the big changes the Government wants to introduce, I believe the Italian market will continue to be a success for the foreseeable future. Last year GGR was up 31% over 2021, a fantastic achievement, and I don't see why we can't break that record again when you look at the 2023 data. Much of this success is due to the fact that the the regulatory framework currently in force is fair for all parties involved and the gaming sector represents a real boost for the Italian economy. If the Government does not intervene on an already successful framework, the region will continue to grow at least for the next 12 months.
Elliott Scales (Kalamba Games): While retail has traditionally held sway in Italy, the shift is moving inexorably to online, with mobile gaming expected to play an increasingly significant role. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, players prefer the flexibility of accessing their favorite casino games on mobile devices. Naturally, regulatory developments will remain fundamental in Italy, when have they never been? We must rely on the ingenuity and tenacity of industry to work with regulators to ensure the continued health and prosperity of the market, which I expect will continue to enjoy steady growth.