Esports, LAN rooms and A.D.M. controls: the "LAN-Gate" case
The closure of three LAN rooms arranged by the A.D.M. at the end of last April for violation of art. 110 paragraphs 6 and 7 of the T.U.L.P.S. made great impression among operators in gaming and betting sector
The closure by the Customs Agency, Excise and Monopoly, of some LAN rooms of the Esport Palace in Bergamo which took place at the end of last April aroused a hive of controversy assuming the connotations of a real national "case", which he dealt with even the well-known television program "Le Iene". Let's briefly summarize the story. The closure of the aforementioned LAN rooms came following a complaint from the CEO of Led S.r.l. also owner of arcades, slot rooms, billiards and of the Joyvillage chain, who had highlighted the comparability of LAN and eSport rooms to traditional arcade arcades, in which there are coin-operated arcade cabinets, with the difference that the former "would evade the current regulations "offering rental services" without fulfilling the legislative obligations that arcades have been forced to comply with for decades now. "In other words, LAN and eSport rooms would limit themselves to renting hardware, whatever it is, without having to worry about regulations including the verification of the games used (also verifying the possibility of use by minors), the homologation of the gaming machines and the control of the payment through the classic coin mechanisms. At this point, A.D.M. which has affixed the seals to all the equipment of the three Lan and eSport halls controlled for non-compliance with article 110 paragraphs 6 and 7 Unique Text of Public Safety Laws (T.U.L.P.S.). However, the Administration itself, probably in order not to arouse alarmism in the sector, then specified that this control activity only involved 4 commercial establishments "within which, for consideration, entertainment equipment was made available to the public, including also the so-called video games are included ". Of these, three were free of licenses, authorization and clearances for both hardware and software. A fourth audited provided all the administrative documentation currently recognized as correct for the exercise of the gaming activity in the LAN room. Consequently, in this case, the administrative inspection would have ended without any accounting or administrative significance. Hence, there appears to be no danger to LAN rooms which can continue to operate if in good standing. Moreover, ADM asserts that it has acted only to ensure compliance with the regulations currently in force in order to protect the operators in the market of LAN rooms that "make gaming equipment available in a legal and responsible manner". The owner of the eSport Palace of Bergamo, in the response also entrusted to a request for clarification presented to A.D.M., stressed the inapplicability to the LAN rooms of the rules set out in the TULPS, underlining that "the old cabinets had the game installed while now the video games are managed online on publisher servers and are only reproduced on PCs "and it would be impossible to validate them" especially since they update every three seconds ". Furthermore, it should be noted that eSports, digital sports, are recognized by Coni on a par with other sports disciplines. As you can see, the question is very complex. In the first place, Paragraph 7 of Article 110 of the TULPS obliges the operators of this kind of activity - entertainment through electronic and electromechanical products - to approve the various machinery by providing some precise data on the hardware and software used and to install systems authorization '(the coin mechanisms, so to speak). Approval which should, in theory, adapt to the rules established by the ADM which, at this point, should dictate guidelines for the production and installation of gaming PCs and consoles (which and with which hardware and software characteristics) and the maximum number of machines that a single business can host. However, if this is possible - and desirable - for those machines used in VLT rooms such as video poker and video lottery, the same is not possible for 'normal' consoles and PCs whose firmware is subject to constant updates. In the case of PCs, in addition to the driver component, BIOS and operating systems, the hardware components are also replaced with a certain frequency. Above all, by not providing cash winnings, they should not, at least in theory, need special controls to prevent the installed software from being modified to defraud the Revenue Agency and AAMS/A.D.M. Because alternatively it would be like asking Microsoft, for example, to make available the source code of their Windows OS, so that the machines can be "compliant". In conclusion, this decision by ADM still reflects on the one hand the lack of knowledge of the eSports phenomenon, on the other hand the "regulatory vacuum" in the sector, which can lead to overly restrictive interpretations of the regulations in force, despite the fact that LAN rooms are nothing new (in about 10 years about a hundred were born) and despite the many fairs, such as the Games Week that takes place every year in Milan. To the next episode of a soap opera that promises to be long and complicated.