Italy’s Mafia Exploiting Legal Gambling Oppurtunities
The idea of legalizing gambling is generally to reduce the criminal elements which thrive on an undergrounds illegal gambling market. In Italy at the moment the government is coming under fire for what was supposed to reduce the influence of the mafia in underground illegal gambling.
The Italian government like many others is cash strapped and is in desperate need of revenues. In the last few years they havesoftened their restriction on legal gambling. The estimates are that up to $86 billion a year is wagered by Italian gamblers. A lot of this comes from video slot machines. Much like the infamous FOBTs in the UK these video slot machines which number about 400,000 have popped up in espresso bars alongside the coffee and pastries Italians enjoy.
Having legalized gambling according to prosecutors has in fact strengthened the Mafia who have invested in what is now legal gambling. In the past legal gambling was largely restricted which led to the Mafia investing their efforts in racketeering, money laundering or trucking. Now the ability to run a legal gambling business has offered the mafia the perfect channel to expand their reach from Italy’s poorer south into the richer North.
The gambling industry itself acknowledges that the illegal elements are taking advantage of the legal opportunities to operate legal gambling but insist that the idea of nationwide legalization still reduces the opportunities for criminal organizations. They cite the days of Prohibition which created a larger and not smaller illegal market. They also point out the fact that legal gambling provides jobs for more than 25,000 people involved in the industry. The president of Italy’s main gaming lobby Massimo Passamonti does acknowledge that the sheer amount of slot machines that have popped up across Italy is having a negative impact on society and “can turn everyone against us.”
Like in the UK the Italian government is considering implementing new restrictions aimed at reducing the number of slot machines available to Italian punters.