[toc]The Italian company ASAP Italia SRL has turned away from its own home market to launch its first daily fantasy sports operation in the UK, after obtaining a license from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC).
The Sportito version of DFS hopes that the lack of salary caps and other restrictions will make its offering more attractive to players. Winnings can be cashed out at any time during a season and contest buy-ins begin from £2 ($2.60).
New players are protected from highly skilled competitors
To encourage new players, Sportito offers free-to-enter competitions, and a focus on protecting new players from more skilled players when they do make the leap to real money play. This has become one of the most controversial issues in the US debate about DFS.
Riccardo Mittiga of Sportito said:
“Fantasy sports is growing in Europe, but not as much attention has been given to it there in comparison with the US. We want to provide a quality platform to become the top-rated daily fantasy sports platform.”
“What sets us apart is that we aim to protect new customers from experienced players, we pay great attention to customer service, we will offer more social networking features, and we feature more sports than any other provider in Europe.”
Targeting the UK market says volumes about Italian regulation
ASAP Italia already has Italian regulatory approval for its Superscommesse.it betting odds comparison site, and has a Malta Gaming Authority license. However, the first outing for the Sportito DFS business is in the UK.
The company does say that it plans to expand, “seeking licences in other markets around Europe and is in talks with authorities in Italy, as well as countries that can be targeted legally through a Maltese licence.”
The process of gambling license acquisition is faster and less onerous in the UK than in Italy, but there are other more significant differences between the two regulatory systems.
The UK license does not restrict Sportito to UK customers; it is free to market to any other countries where national laws allow. The UK point of consumption gaming taxes mean that the operator only pays tax on the revenues it receives from UK customers.
The tax rate of 15 percent is also lower than the 20 percent in Italy, and there is no legal requirement to provide the tax authorities with information about players’ winnings.
It would be wrong to stereotype the Italians as being averse to paying income tax on their winnings, but the large proportion of play that takes place outside the regulated sector is partly the result of players wanting to avoid the tax man’s attention.
DFS is coming to Italy, but the UK market is more established
Over the last couple of months, several of the large Italian gaming operators have announced the addition of DFS to their product portfolio.
In June, Mondogoal struck deals with Sisal and Lottomatica to provide them with a DFS platform. In August, Oulala announced a deal with Game Interaction Group Ltd (GIG) to bring its innovative platform to the Italian market.
Nevertheless, the UK is a few months ahead of Italy in adopting DFS.
Five months later than originally planned, but still earlier than its big US rival FanDuel, DraftKings launched its UK operation under the management of Chief International Officer Jeffrey Haas.
Haas is a former director of poker for PartyPoker, and launched the poker brand in the newly regulated New Jersey market. He described the UK market as ready and waiting for DFS:
“There is a massive appetite for daily fantasy sports in the UK. They are a nation of avid and knowledgeable sports fans with a well-established network of players. Daily fantasy sports is an evolution of the much loved season-long tournaments for a time-constrained generation that want instant bragging rights. Quick, fun and skilled, it adds another layer of entertainment to the matchday ritual.”
The same might be said of Italy, but the regulatory barriers and higher taxes make the UK a more attractive market for a new brand finding its feet in a competitive marketplace.
The industry significance of Sportito’s launch is not so much that there is a nascent market providing opportunity, but that tax and regulation are having a larger and larger impact on corporate decisions.