Street: e-sports, the law and the gaming culture

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It’s a bit like a certain type of Italy, the one with the entrepreneurial tradition, the value, all analogous (again), of money, had suddenly woken up in 2022.

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It all begins in late April with a complaint that Sergio Milesi is signing on to the Lan halls, the halls where the public can use PCs and consoles to play multiplayer, locally or online. Milesi is the CEO of the company LED srl and operates in the entertainment sector. But LED it deals with slot machines, billiard rooms, bowling, seats at the antipodes from games and above all e-sports. Milesi’s complaint alleges a regulatory vacuum that has allowed LAN space to spread so far without real legislation. The entrepreneur can not understand how, according to the statement, “the presence of equipment as mentioned above in premises open to the public and with payment from customers of a cost for the use of such equipment is a circumvention of the applicable rules;“And calls for such equipment to be subject to the same rules and controls that slot machines or video poker are subject to in order to combat gambling, even more so that, he says, operating on such machines, they are also less.

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The consequences of Milesi’s complaint were immediate, the Tax and Monopoly Agency (ADM) challenged the document and sealed some of the large Italian LAN spaces as early as the end of April, pending the necessary checks. But what scares the big gaming community the most is, of course, the gloomy landscape that risks opening up to the eyes of them if the ADM initiatives go into full swing. The risk is actually to say goodbye not only to the console test stations in malls, but also to the key events at some trade fairs dedicated to games, which are often the scene of tournaments between the main players of FPS, RTS or sports betting. The biggest damage, it is obvious, would actually be inflicted precisely on the export dimension, perhaps the reality more “on the edge of the illegal” in this legislative key, which in its most popular events sees hundreds of players confronting each other on LAN, but who at the same time is increasingly one of today’s cultural engines, to the point that it not only receives constant support from athletes such as Valentino Rossi or Charles Leclerc, but also that it is very close to dealing with increasingly “canonical” contexts such as OL.

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The reactions to Ermini’s complaint were not long in coming. Among the many, scattered among politicians, youtubers, streamers, who of course wanted to make their voices heard, precisely because they felt in doubt, were the owners of the Cicolari brothers.Esports Palace of Bergamo, one of the most prosperous gaming realities in Lombardy.

With a video posted on their Instagram page on April 29, the leaders highlight one of the most edgy elements in this entire story. In fact, Alessio Cicolari describes the confrontation with the Monopoly inspectors and the moments when their stations were seized in a grotesque way: “I could not help noticing a lack of preparation of the sector from the inspectors – says the owner – they asked for information on games, how you connect online, how to play ”.

The point is actually right here, in a country blocked by bureaucracy and in a society that is unable to keep up, to understand progress not only in the profit dimension, but also and above all in relation to its repercussions in the cultural context .

It is not even necessary to reflect on the conflicting motives of the complaint, perhaps also driven by a desire to avenge the analog entertainment against the digital, by the fear of some unfair competition from e-sports to castle, wounded, as Milesi says, from strict rules and burdensome taxes that LAN rooms must not suffer from, despite the use of similar equipment, as it is a motivation that struggles to stand out: it is very rare for a player to get into a traditional leeway, blogger GIOXX writes about it.

On the other hand, it is more interesting to linger by the holes, by the empty passages in a dialogue with a new space struggling to trigger. One of the most important ambiguities in this sense is the ongoing update: it is in fact impossible to regulate, in a legislative way, to correct the behavior of a machine that can, in fact, change its action with a simple patch, a mandatory step for itself the survival of the machine, which would otherwise risk not only not functioning optimally but also not being attractive to the players.

Always closely linked to the fundamental role of the public, but much more pragmatic is the risky bureaucratic process.

The gaming market and Italian law, of course, go at two different speeds, to the point that it would not be too absurd to imagine a near future where EA will release the latest Battlefield but the Monopoly regulatory work will be so far behind that the LAN premises and sectoral events will be allowed to set up stations where it will only be possible to play one chapter of the year old franchise, to which, absurdly, professional players will be no more used to playing. At that time, perhaps, to put it with the lawyer / Youtuber Francesco Catania, better to give in to nostalgia, better “play Sensible Soccer when the rest of the world plays FIFA“.

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Speech apart, and which, however, more clearly tells how much still needs to be done to tackle gaming and e-sports in a conscious way in Italy, is precisely the relationship that these spaces have to gambling. If Milesi already, as I said, wants to read and regulate a new context with old tools, it is striking how much even those who want to defend LAN space and e-sports from the Monopolies’ long script fall into a dangerous misunderstanding.

Stefano Sbordoni, consultant for the CONI Esport Promotion Committee, did not hesitate to state that “e-sports is not gambling and on the contrary to confuse a sports activity with a gambling activity with cash winnings. It seems quite cross-border”. This is certainly true, but it must be considered how even online gaming, certainly far from an extremely regulated export, risks giving life to new forms of gaming (think of the so-called “microtransactions”), as it can happen e.g. games that more or less openly encourage the actual purchase of content packages of different value, which, however, are released to the player in a completely random way, which actually encourages the player to try again until the result satisfies him.

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Of course, there is still a marginal signal in this discourse, but it is the strongest sign of what is missing in Italy before effective e-sports legislation is real discourses on e-sports in itself, reflecting its complexity and nuances.

But perhaps the dust, like this strife between real and digital travel, can be the beginning of a fruitful confrontation, it can really lead certain Italian realities towards a present, a contemporaneity whose pace is in any case inevitable. It is no coincidence that both Milesi and ADM have hastily made obvious turns after their respective initial holdings. In fact, in recent days, the monopolies have specified that social events related to gaming (including trade fairs and industry events) are not in jeopardy and that of all the entrepreneurial realities affected, only three LAN spaces have been closed; at the same time, the Milesi and Cicolini brothers had the opportunity to meet by telephone, and it is the entrepreneur himself who defines the interlocutors’ conclusions as “unexpected”. The hope is that the surprise of the interlocutors is openly linked to the awareness that the true center of any discourse on gambling is located much deeper than they have hitherto thought. In anticipation of further development, it is a pleasure to certify a first signal for a more conscious approach to the game area: It is in fact yesterday’s news that Federico Freni, Deputy Secretary of the Ministry, during the parliamentary question organized to solve the problem of economics and finance, he stated that the government will evaluate all initiatives for “guarantees, within a reasonable time, effective and stable regulation of the sector, recognizes its autonomous relevance, and also evaluates, together with Coni, the creation of a federation to oversee the organization of competitive sports betting “. Therefore, it is not the solution to all the problems, but at least a glimpse.

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