Italy may soon not have a single esports club or LAN room in sight, all because the irate chief executive of LED Srl, Sergio Milesi, has asserted in a recent complaint that these venues are encroaching on his turf but do not necessarily comply with the prerequisite law and tax levy that they are “supposed to be paying, and thus receive an unfair competitive advantage.
Milesi who operates arcade and gaming businesses has filed a complaint that alleges that the venues need to start paying taxes similar to what he pays for his own business and by not doing so, they are essentially breaching existing laws. COVID-19 has already impacted Milesi’s business while esports venues have been proliferating, and making it harder for the old-timer to compete with progress.
Ludicrously Calling Gambling “Gaming” Pays Off
Esports has nothing to do with gambling, but Milesi is not happy that any other business can just come in and offer a product that is appealing to “gamers,” and this may have to do with a stilted perception that the gambling industry has been trying to push onto the public an opinion that “gambling” equals “gaming”.
It does not, and traditional gamers are those who play video games, not games of chance that are often associated with social ills. In any event, Milesi insists that esports venues are not complying with existing laws and has urged authorities to intervene. He has filed a complaint with the Customs and Monopoly Agency and his request has been honored as several venues have been shut down because of “illegal gambling”
Authorities have seized gaming equipment such as desktop computers from the venues, and others have opted out of operation voluntarily. Milesi has used a bizarre piece of law to help him build his case. He speaks about a piece of legislation passed back in 2003 that particularly names gambling machines, but makes no mention of desktop computers, consoles, or video games. It’s even stranger to use this law when Milesi’s own business has to do with purely entertainment venues.
According to that piece of law, all gaming and gambling machines must be fair, meaning that an auditor must establish that there is no way to stilt the outcome of results. Consoles and desktop computers go out of date much quicker than any of the gambling machines found in gambling parlors, and they are, admittedly not subject to frequent audits.
Do Not Take the Fight to Video Gamers
Youthful and with plenty of disposable income, video gamers are not a demographics Milesi wants to mess with. Shutting down people’s favorite venues is only denying the inevitable – the disintegration of traditional businesses for the sake of more desirable pastimes. This is why companies such as Entain are investing heavily in innovative forms of entertainment going beyond traditional gambling models.
Esports is not gambling in any way, and outside the prize pools paid to participants, there is nothing to suggest that PC gaming bars and LAN rooms should be subject to the law that Milesi has now found an ally in. However, change is coming. Two Italian MPs, to name Luca Carabetta and Daniele Belotti, have already called for a clear distinction in the existing laws to avoid confusion and limit the option for non-competitive entities to gut-punch successful businesses.
Some esports businesses have closed for now – yes, but their customers are unlikely to find Milesi’s offer any more appealing.