SKS365 AT SBC DIGITAL ITALY 2021

Alexander Martin (CEO): Omnichannel and Gaming as Responsible Entertainment are the keys for having long-term success in the Italian market.

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The outlook of the Italian gaming industry after having been hit in the last three years by the advertising ban, a new turnover tax and the lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. These were the main topics discussed during the panel ITALY 2021 – RECOVERY, RETREAT OR RESTART? at SBC Digital Italy, the virtual summit which put together 750 leaders of the Italian gaming industry.

Alexander Martin, SKS365’s CEO, has highlighted the economic damages for the industry because of the pandemic. The increase of the online channel was not big enough to compensate the losses caused by the closing of the betting shops imposed by the government. In addition, the introduction of a new turnover tax during the first lockdown, made even worse the situation for the industry.

“In May 2020 – said Martin - the Italian government announced it was adding a new 0.5 per cent turnover tax for gambling, in order to support sports organisations suffering losses during the pandemic. This decision was a paradox that worsened the situation in the sector, because at the same time many other industries were benefiting, albeit with difficulty, of state aid. The consequence is a relevant loss in terms of revenues, not only for the gaming companies but also per the Taxman, as the fiscal losses exceeded 4 bln euros last year”.

The online revenues have just partially reduced the industry losses. “The online gaming – Martin stated – has grown by over 40% and probably will stay at these high levels in the upcoming months. Despite the good online performance, we hope that our customers will soon be allowed to return to play in the shops, which have been closed for over 8 months, although the operators - both concessionaires and shop owners - have been committed to reopen safely the gaming outlets”. Once reopened, the betting shops will have to deal with the different regional restrictive rules: “Each region has set up its own model on distances, creating thus a chaotic situation. It is necessary a reorganization of the sector, based on national criteria, so that the distribution of gaming venues can be homogeneous over the territory”. Martin hopes for the opening of a dialogue with the government, so that together with the industry it can be possible to draw a new and sustainable business model.

The fight against illegality is another of the crucial issues addressed by the CEO of SKS365: “A key of responsible gaming is to educate consumers to play exclusively with authorized operators. It is the only way to achieve players’ protection and be compliant with the rules. From this point of view, communication has a key role, as the advertising ban stopped the communication flow to the consumers. Furthermore, a survey carried out by the ISS (Health national institute) showed that 80% of Italian population doesn't gamble because of advertising. So, facts prove that this ban does not work and that, identifying a legal operator has become more and more difficult than in the past”.

According to Martin, the answer to this problem is only one: a culture of gaming that brings back the business to the pure entertainment and fun aspect. “In SKS365 we have just renewed our brand identity, developing a new slogan – ‘SPORT. LIVE. PLAY.’- based on the concepts of passion, innovation, reliability and responsible entertainment”.

SBC Italy 2021