Yes and no. Funny, right?
Italian law criminalizes all forms of gambling both in public places and in private clubs. However, you can play most casino games without breaking any law. Here's how the interesting technicality works.
The law differentiates between games of pure luck and games of skill. It has tolerance for the latter but prohibits the former. However, the same law excuses sports betting and lotteries from the list of prohibited law games.
These, and every other form of gambling, are regulated by the Autonomous Administration of State Monopolies (AAMS). The body issues licenses, regulates practice, and punishes violations through fines or imprisonment.
But then, violations are hard to come by.
Betting acts in Italy
The law has evolved a lot from absolute prohibition to the current near free-for-all legislation. The first steps towards widespread legalization began in 2006. Other European Union (EU) members complained that Italy was breaking EU trade agreements by prohibiting some licensed operators from working in its territory.
Italy put up a defense using its criminal law but was found guilty of not reporting a list of banned websites to the EU beforehand.
An Act of 2006 allowed the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and EU betting operators to operate in Italy in line with the country's legal provisions.
The Finance Act (2007) further opened up the playfield. It made card games of skill legal. The provision was that they should be played in a tournament format. The stakes were also set to be equal to the tournament fee. Texas Hold 'Em sneaked into the legal bracket through this law. Luck card games like Punto Banco remained in the cold. But not for very long.
In February 2011, the Comunitaria Decree allowed real money poker and casino games. It also shifted taxation from turnover to profits. This move made the field more lucrative for betting operators. The newly-legalized games were subject to a 20% tax while lotteries, skill games, and horse betting were levied at a 3% rate on the buy-ins that they sold.
The Comunitaria also helped bettors by demanding that operators pay not less than 90% of wagers as winnings. To restrict players from going overboard, the buy-in for poker tournament was capped at €250 (281 USD today. The initial maximum stake was set at €1000 (1127 USD).
eSports Legislation in Italy
E-sports is a relatively new sport discipline all over the world. . As a result, Italy has not moved laws to regulate either the games themselves or the betting operators who provide online esports betting. Due to their nature, however, esports betting is controlled by the Italian online laws which are quite structured compared to elsewhere in the world.
The regulations formulated in 2006 also touched on online gambling. Legitimate operators from other countries were allowed to provide in Italy, a move that saw regulations disputed. Italy amended its regulations to align with the European Economic Community (EEC) treaty and online operators from overseas were allowed to offer real-money games in the country.
The regulations required such operators to acquire a license from the AAMS. To qualify for a license, a company had to certify certain criteria. They had to have operated in Europe in two previous years, managing a turnover of at least €1,500,000. They also had to pay a €350,000 fee to the AAMS, be based in an EU country, and have incorporation as a limited company. The AAMs only issue 120 licenses.
Esports betting operates under these rules, given most bookmakers who offer the games were already offering other sports betting services in the country.