Europe is currently undergoing the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the majority of countries making new records and reporting tens of thousands of new cases daily. Italy was one of the hardest-hit countries during the first wave, and the second wave is already even more severe, shattering previous records for daily new cases.
Many officials of European countries decided to enter the second lockdown, including Italy. Most non-essential businesses will shut down once again, including the local casino industry. According to Italy’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, the lockdown will last until November 24.
The country has not yet recovered economically from the first wave, and re-entering lockdown mode will be a further blow.
Conte stated that the closures would include bars and restaurants working until 6:00 P.M. and full closure on Sundays. Moreover, the government instructed all non-essential businesses to shut down.
Despite all of that, the gambling industry lives on, as locals can still buy lottery tickets at brick-and-mortar outlets, but they still have to respect the social distancing rules.
Gaming Operators Not Happy
Land-based gaming operators in Italy were understandably disappointed with the new rules imposed by the government. Some of the operators even started a counter-offensive, lobbying to end the lockdown as quickly as possible using local media outlets.
Those land-based gaming operations argue they should be allowed to operate because they have been following strict health and safety guidelines to minimize infection and transmission risk. The strict biosecurity protocols led to no new cases being discovered inside one of these gambling houses for weeks.
According to many Italian local news outlets, casinos could lose more than $2.1 billion due to the second lockdown. Such a massive deficit has the potential to be crippling for Italy’s gaming operations industry.
The lockdown could also result in some unwanted moves from the local customers, who might revert to black and grey markets to satisfy betting needs or to make ends meet. During the last year, the ban on gambling during the lockdown has resulted in significant infighting among local politicians.
Darker Side Effects
According to a report in Financial Times, Andrea Ruggeri, an Italian politician from Forza Italia, openly opposed all the measures taken, stating that the locals would turn to illegal gambling instead. He said that there was “a market for gambling activities in Italy,” and that by keeping casinos closed, Italy is opening the door for illegal activities. Moreover, he added that gambling was not only legal but also pretty lucrative for the state, as Italy charges decent taxes to operators.
Ruggeri argued that by keeping the gambling industry shut, many gamblers would turn to illegal activities that would likely thrive in the current environment.
It remains uncertain how the government will respond to all of this. One thing is sure — Italy’s second lockdown is needed to help prevent to minimize the casualties caused by the coronavirus and not strain the local hospitals and medical workers too much. But the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be more than strictly health related.