Rome

Senate votes for moratorium on new gambling businesses

Government opposition to ban defeated

Senate votes for moratorium on new gambling businesses

(By Emily Backus) Rome, September 5 - Premier Enrico Letta's government was defeated on Thursday when the Senate voted in favour of a Northern League motion calling for a ban on the opening of new gambling enterprises in Italy for a year. There is concern that the rapid spread of gambling outlets and Internet betting sites after liberalisations is causing a rise in addictions and huge hardship for the families of victims. All forms of gambling have soared during Italy's crippling recession as unemployment ballooned. Italy's economy has only seen the tentative beginnings of recovery in the last quarter. Studies released late last year by trade union confederation CGIL showed a 691% jump between 2005 and 2010 in the number of people seeking professional help to deal with gambling addictions. In 2013, some 9,300 businesses offer gambling of some kind, up 32.1% on the year, the Milan chamber of commerce revealed in August. The number of registered gambling devices have increased 91.2% since 2012, while the number of establishments with slot machines have nearly doubled. Economy Undersecretary Alberto Giorgetti said he would offer to give up his responsibilities for the gambling sector after the Upper House overwhelmingly rejected his call to vote against the motion. He said the content of the motion caused problems regarding the rights of gambling businesses and that a moratorium would produce a six-billion-euro hole in the State budget. A report last year from Italy's Catholic social-service group CEIS found that gambling was Italy's third-largest industry, earning 47.5 billion euros in revenue in 2008. Gambling revenue in Italy was up 28.8% to 23.2 billion in the first quarter of 2012. The government takes a hefty cut of revenue from gambling establishments. The CEIS study also found that 47% of Italy's poor and 66% of the unemployed are known to gamble. "Finally parliament is dictating clear, incisive rules to the government to control the phenomenon of gambling in our country," said Giuseppe Lumia, the head of Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD) in the Senate justice commission. "It's necessary to intervene as soon as possible in the gambling market to combat pathological gambling and fight the interest that mafia syndicates and organised crime gangs have in the sector".

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