Italy – Living without the World Cup

On 21 March, at Day 1 of SBC Events’ Betting on Football conference 2018 at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge stadium, David Clifton moderated a panel session entitled “Italy – Living without the World Cup”. 

David is pictured at the left in the below photograph, with his following panel members (left to right):

  • Quirino Mancini, Partner, Tonucci & Partners
  • Francesco Carione, Managing Director, La Gazzetta dello Sport
  • Marco Castaldo, CEO, Microgame
  • Fabio Schiavolin, CEO, SNAITech

A positive tone was adopted by the four Italian panellists despite the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia being the first since 1958 in which Italy will not have participated.

It was acknowledged that this would have a detrimental effect on the Italian market, Marco Castaldo commenting that: “We expect to lose some turnover versus the last World Cup.  How much is difficult to estimate.  Margins will be impacted too, as bets that would have been made in Italy may move to more favoured contenders.  But the industry also loses a classic customer acquisition opportunity:  getting new punters to try betting by leveraging loyalty to their national team.”

However, he remained confident on the online betting sector’s long-term digital prospects and growth, commenting that Microgame will launch its new network daily fantasy sports (“DFS”) product this June. He said: “To help compensate, we will be launching our Daily Fantasy Sports network to coincide with the World Cup.  The idea is to provide players with a different type of engagement with the tournament since they won’t have their team to support.  We are merging with an existing network and are working to put all the leading operators together to create significant liquidity, which is what has been missing. With sufficient liquidity, Daily Fantasy Sports is an interesting game on its own.  But we also see it as an effective cross-selling tool into Sports Betting.”

None of the panellists felt equipped to forecast the effect on the Italian betting market of the 4 March General Election in Italy, which resulted in a hung Parliament but they were encouraged by the positive response to the Italian Government’s recent national tender for online gambling licences, Marco Castaldo saying: “In general, I expected interest but the number is a bit surprising:  more than 40 new operators, net of the renewals.   Observers believe the market will consolidate but after this licensing round, we could have over 110 operators, more than 4 years ago. Probably, this reflects the underlying and persistent growth trend in the online segment, leading to significant interest from the last international operators who are not present.  After all, Italy is one of the largest regulated markets out there.  I believe we will also see a significant number of new operators from the local land-based gaming industry, who have finally decided that multi-channel is the way to go.  Put simply this may be the real news”.

Amongst the more surprising revelations made during the panel session was the result of a survey of La Gazzetta dello Sport readers that found that the team Italians are most likely to support in this summer’s World Cup is 200/1 outsider, Iceland!