Over the last two decades consumer spending in the Italian gambling industry has increased exponentially: Italy is now Europe's biggest gambling market and one of the biggest in the world.
In 2012 the Italian Government has adopted the so called Balduzzi decree (decree law n. 158 of 2012) which introduced a public health approach to gaming, gambling advertising regulations and a transitional plan aimed at placing gaming halls far from schools, hospitals and religious locations. Notwithstanding the national prescriptions, a number of Municipalities have introduced additional restrictions through planning laws.
The administrative tribunal for the Veneto region (TAR) issued a ruling (No. 578 of 2013) against the Municipality of Vicenza in the judicial review proceedings relating to the Municipality’s planning rules on gaming halls. On the basis of such rules planning permission would be granted only if a minimum distance (greater than the one set out in the Balduzzi decree) must be observed between the new gaming halls and certain buildings deemed of social relevance by the Vicenza Municipality.
The TAR has determined that the Municipality’s planning rules on gaming halls conflicted with the provisions of the Balduzzi decree and quashed them. It was established that according to the principles of equal treatment and effectiveness and in order to adopt a consistent approach to the issues of ludopathy and gambling addiction which were at the core of the decree law n. 158 of 2012, local planning regulations should follow the national laws where it prescribes minimum distances from certain socially relevant locations.
On such basis the TAR has also set aside the Vicenza Municipality determination which prevented the operation and licensing of a gaming hall which had recently opened in the city.