Recent statistics published by the Italian news agency AGI reinforce the decision of many gambling companies to focus on Italy, showing that 11 percent of the population, or 4.3 million Italians between the ages of 14 and 64 have taken a flutter.
The statistics originate from studies by StageUp Sport & Leisure Business and Ipsos, the agency reports, identifying the typical Italian player as male, under 34 and resident in the South, especially in cities with a population of more than 30 000.
Currently, there are 670 000 online poker
players but the legalisation of skill-based games on the Internet, including poker, will rise to 1.7 million and will include people who say they have never played but that they might like to.
The research shows that poker in general is a fast-growing fave with Italians. The numbers of frequent players (who say that they play regularly), have more than doubled, reaching 480 000 in February 2007 and counting.
The surge in players is due mostly to the widespread publicity on the game, especially through the medium of television and the perception of it as a sport, with Texas Hold 'Em the preferred variant. The agency reports that if, a year and a half ago, there were 1.7 million Italians who were interested in poker, then by June 2008 this number would have grown to top 5 million - a growth of 188 percent. As many as 14.5 million (almost 37 percent of the Italian population between 14 and 64) has played the game at least once.