Let’s try to clarify what is happening in Italy at the moment after the complaint presented to the Customs and State Monopolies Agencies.
On the evening of April 29, the media bomb that directly concerns the sector ofesports in a broad sense, that is intended as entertainment and not in the exclusive sense of video game tournaments. According to what was communicated and documented via social media by the Esports Palace in Bergamo, a commercial activity used as a bar, IT shop and above all dining room Lan for the use of PCs, consoles, simulators driving in the context of video games, the aforementioned stations were subjected to administrative seizure by the control bodies intervened after the complaint presented to the Customs and State Monopolies Agency by the entrepreneur Sergio Milesi, CEO and founder of Led Srl, one of the main Italian companies specializing in the entertainment sector and owner of reference brands in the sector, such as JoyVillage and LuckyVille, that is the sector that contains arcade, bowling or FEC (Family entertainment center) halls. First of all, it should be emphasized, therefore, that the dispute is not over the association with slot machines and the like but with “traditional” arcades that offer entertainment including videogames, albeit in a different way.
The casus belli
The administrative seizure that in these hours is affecting various realities, such as the Esports Palace itself managed by Ak Informatica and previously mentioned, as well as the PC-Teklab Gaming Center in Milan, including several computer shops scattered throughout the Italian territory that inside them propose the use of PC and Virtual Reality workstations, it started as anticipated by the statement presented by the entrepreneur Sergio Milesi, which is mainly based on three points: the lack of homologation of the platforms used which according to the complaint have no certification on their compliance with the laws in force, nor the approval of the Adm (read the PCs or the Consoles would not be in accordance with the law to be used by the public as they are devices cataloged as home entertainment); the lack of control by the merchants over possible gambling activities, or the possibility for users to use the machines, PCs or consoles, to play, for example, online poker (thus returning by right to gambling) ; absence of a commercial license for the use of video games to the public, video games that are instead cataloged as property for the purchaser who then subsequently makes a private use of them.
Phase 1: the complaint
The exhibit was created and promoted by the entertainment sector of “traditional” gaming rooms (if we want to call them that) to make sure, according to what has been declared in several interventions by the CEO of Led Srl, of the lawfulness of the activities, whether they are Lan or computer shops or similar. As reported on GameNews, “The reference is to some entertainment offers not referable to the normal case envisaged in Italian game rooms that are hosted in some public places and presented as forms of esports.” The complaint mentions the discipline dedicated to these cases, which can be found in article 22, paragraph 1, of law no. 289, and subsequent amendments and additions, which “Submits the production, import and management of amusement and entertainment machines suitable for lawful gaming to an authorization regime by the Ministry of Economy and Finance – Autonomous Administration of State Monopolies, on the basis of defined technical rules in agreement with the Ministry of the Interior “. In fact, according to the complaint, the Lan Halls and related realities that operate in the field of video games and esports with PCs, consoles and simulators open to the public, usable for an hourly fee or for performance, would represent a “Unlawful competition as the equipment on which they are carried out is not qualified by the regulator or subjected to any technical verification of conformity or approval”.
Phase 2: the interrogation
In addition to the complaint, Sergio Milesi as a representative of Led Srl also presented a ruling, or an application that a subject can address to a state body regarding a potential behavior that he would like to implement in order to have clarifications and explanations in regarding the interpretation, application or non-application of laws of various kinds relating to it. In other words, it is possible to ask the body, in this case the Customs and State Monopolies Agency, if Led Srl itself can use PCs, consoles and driving simulators in its entertainment activities, such as the aforementioned JoyVillage. and LuckyVille, in a fair and lawful manner. Sergio Milesi’s intervention, supporting the entire sector of amusement arcades and the amusement sector more generally, therefore takes place on two parallel tracks: on the one hand, the request for ascertainment, through the complaint, of the lawfulness of the operation of the Lan and similar rooms and of “Proceed to carry out the appropriate checks and implement the necessary interventions in order to ensure compliance with the applicable legislation”; on the other hand, through the interrogation, he asks to imagine a concrete situation with the aim of introducing the same activity also in “traditional” amusement arcades.
Article 110 of the Tulps
Another request for attention raised by the complaint concerns in particular driving simulators, often present in the various Lan rooms and in many ways similar to those present in “traditional” arcades. The main difference, obvious, is that in the first case the use is allowed upon payment of an amount of money related to the time of use, while in the second case it is necessary to use a token to start using the machine and then possibly continue by inserting other tokens purchased now or previously. Although they may seem like two similar cases, there is a substantial difference: in the first case, the time of use is determined by adding an hour of time to a figure X (obviously to be extended later if the user wishes); in the second case, however, the time of use of a single token, or of the cash consideration, is indeterminate and depends on the skill of the player himself. Simply said, in the first case a “poor” player can use the machine at the exact same price as a “good” player, while in the second case the price per minute or per hour can vary significantly. According to the complaint, which refers to article 110 of the Tulps – Consolidated Law on public safety laws, “These driving simulators are very similar to the devices of the paragraph 7 category, which our Company (Led srl, ed.), Incurring high costs, in compliance with the regulations is obliged to approve through the bodies in charge and then allow their installation and ‘use in premises dedicated to lawful gaming. “
Going to analyze Paragraph 7, the c-ter states that they are also part of it “Those, mechanical and electromechanical, for which access to the game is regulated without introducing money but with time or purpose use”similar to what happens in this way with PCs, consoles or driving simulators, falling within those categories of machines that should be subject to the discipline of the aforementioned article 110. Furthermore, Paragraph 7-bis also states that “The devices and devices referred to in paragraph 7 may not reproduce the game of poker or, in any case, even in part, its fundamental rules as well as all the games which, for methods similar to those permitted pursuant to paragraph 6, may induce a same expectation of winning “a case that the PCs commonly present in LAN rooms and similar, connected to the internet, would seem not to regulate, leaving users free access to any site, even those of gambling or betting (albeit lawful).
Phase 3: the seizures
Following the complaint and the interpello, in less than ten days, the Adm therefore began the necessary checks of the Lan rooms present in Italy, as told here, but not only, and indeed by inserting all those commercial establishments open to the public that register PC, console and simulation stations dedicated to video games, competitive and otherwise. Checks which are followed, in most cases, by the administrative seizures of the machines, fines of several thousand euros, in some cases tens, and the impossibility of continuing in these activities limited to the use of gaming machines (remain commercial establishments open as bars, computer shops and other than gaming).
The Italian gray zone
When this happened it is undoubtedly the result of the lack of a specific discipline that regulates and regulates the activities of the Lan rooms. Since their inception, already at the end of the 90s, Lan halls have in fact operated in a legislative limbo that relied on various specific disciplines, operating by analogies or similarities with other concrete cases. Lack that is certainly not to be attributed to the Lan rooms as to the inaction of a legislative apparatus that has never been interested, at least until now, in the sector and its regulation, ignoring it.
The need, for some time feared by the main and non-main actors, of an ad hoc discipline is also part of the consequences that such shortcomings could bring, of which today the first effects are starting to be paid with Lan cinemas substantially unable to react quickly and a considerable economic damage, as well as bad publicity for the entire Italian sector. A sector that, let us remember, is growing exponentially, provides jobs, requires dedicated professionals and involves millions of enthusiasts throughout Italy. It seems paradoxical, in 2022, to reach such consequences when the President of the French Republic Macron, recently elected for a second term, just a week ago declared that he wanted to make France “The country of video games, gaming and esports”.
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Lan-Gate: what we know so far about the block to Lan rooms
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