Italy Week: What are the origins of gambling in Italy?

Italy probably, is one of the most successful European pole in the field of gaming. But what are the origins of gambling in Italy?

This market has always offered great potential for the gambling business, even if in recent years, adverse laws and trends have slowed down its evolution and exponential growth.

How has it evolved over time and what are the most developed games?

Italy week, an online event organized by The Betting Coach Group, addressed these questions in a very interesting in-depth panel, broadcast on the first day of the event.

Micro-history of Lotto, Lotteries, Casinos and Betting in Italy

The game in Italy really starts from very far away, just think for example of the “Gioco del Lotto” which has passed its 500 years of life!

A great achievement that brings Italy to the top of the ranking of the oldest gaming territories in the world.

The second Lottery, the Portuguese one, is “only” 200 years old, a good three hundred years of difference which greatly amplify this great record held by our territory.

Speaking of global gaming, we find interesting references to its existence over time, even in the Bible, where in some of its verses, it speaks of a local lottery, organized to divide the land properties near the Jordan River.

From this brief and quick analysis it is therefore clear that the game has always been part of man’s life being an innate part of it and belonging to his nature.

Returning to Italy, an experimental lot was already being played in the Kingdom of Naples and in the Ducati, when our country could not yet be defined as Italy.

The great revolution, however, arrived in the 1930s, when new forms of play arrived for the first time, even if only located in some territories.

Emblematic is the case of Tripoli, when Libya was still under Italian control. Here was born the first Lottery combined with the Italian Motoring Grand Prix.

From here there has been a growing and continuous proliferation of games; horse racing and Totip were born, and then Enalotto.

There are specific dates that have made the history of the national game, for example in 1946 the Totocalcio was born, a real novelty for the players! We are talking about the first game based on sporting events and on the most popular sport in the area: football.

But the real turning point came in 1998 with the first bet as we know it now, on the occasion of the World Cup in France.

With betting the game changes in Italy and its users but the real boom arrives on December 3, 1997, when SuperEnalotto is presented!

It is the first time ever that a game offers such high prize pools and we are talking about billions of lire, which later became millions of euros.

Today, gaming in Italy collects over 100 billion euros a year, a basic factor for the country’s economy and above all for the tax authorities as well as for providers and operators.

A “gold mine” which, despite time and political actions to contrast, never stops producing and growing.

Even the casino market in the area boasts ancient traditions, among the longest in the world.

The “Ridotto”, now known as the Venice Casino, was one of the first gaming venues in Europe, initially founded to celebrate Carnival and then became a fixed appointment for players from all over Italy and the world.

Why has gambling been legalized in Italy?

Gambling has always been considered a social risk for the population throughout the territory. Its negative effects were analyzed as early as 897. In those years, everything was illegal except for a few authorized businesses which, by the will of Francesco Crispi, were under the control of the Ministero dell’Interno

Basically, the State evaluated gambling as a negative factor from an ethical and social point of view, but in the postwar period, to try to manage it, some concessions were issued for Lotteries, Totocalcio and 4 land-based casinos.

With the passage of time, the development of gambling changes from a negative phenomenon to an economic lever for the state coffers which, with the Amato and Ciampi Governments (1992 – 2003), begin to regularize it to meet the growing needs of public spending. . In a short time, all the moral ethics linked to this phenomenon are canceled. Something like this had happened in the Italian municipalities in the thirteenth century: first gambling is regulated to keep it under control, then with the occasion it is used to make money.

The real turning point comes with the Berlusconi government (2003 – 2009) which builds a real economy based on gambling, the big dealership companies arrive and with them it is decided to spread gambling without limits and space throughout the territory.

The era of Slot Machines and Scratch and Win begins and in 2009 that of Vlt (Videolottery) and online casinos. This latest maneuver is called ” Decreto L’Aquila” and was implemented to obtain funds to be allocated to the reconstruction of the territories hit by the severe earthquake in central Italy.

In 2016 the war between gaming companies and growing layers of opposing companies begins to rage, including local authorities.

Laws and measures against gambling have been introduced over the years up to today, where Regional Distance Meters and the Dignity Decree (latest maneuvers introduced) continue ineffectively to try to regulate both land-based and online gambling.

Who regulates gambling in Italy?

Gambling, in the past and for many years has been managed by the C.O.N.I and by many separate and distinct entities. This organization, however, created conflict and confusion with relative dispersion of players.

Later the general control passed to A.A.M.S. (Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato), which has now become A.D.M.  A.D.M. (Agenzia delle Dogane e dei Monopoli), which has begun to dictate guidelines valid for all games.

This last step represented the real turning point as with a single regulatory body, all the games were able to find a balance.

Today the market is again upset, due to absurd budget laws and autonomous regional laws on gambling, which have led to a situation of serious instability.

To better understand what has been said, just think of the distance meter impositions and the hourly limits, tangible examples of this sensational and worrying situation that risks compromising the market.

In fact, in some regions there are hourly limits for playing, in others there are not. Obviously we are talking about land game.

Or other regions have imposed forced closures on stores.

To settle this huge case, it therefore becomes urgent and necessary to create a single regulation throughout the territory and the State must undertake to respect the agreements with the Concessionaires who pay taxes and Concessions.

What are the next developments?


iGaming expert - with over 10 years of experience in the retail market in Italy and knowledge of global online gaming. In the past he has worked with the largest national gambling companies and he managed some land-based shops on their behalf. Entrepreneur, investor and enthusiast of difficult challenges, in 2015 he founded The Betting Coach Group, an international news and social marketing agency geared towards sports, esports and gambling companies. He is currently the C.E.O of The Betting Coach and is a consultant for Mr. Dragone collaborates with providers (game developers) and event organizers with the aim of helping them develop networks and business across continents. Passionate about journalism, he is the creator and promoter of iGaming Cafè, the first talk show in Italy, dedicated to companies and delegates from the gaming world.