January 24, 2013 / 4:56 PM / 5 years ago

CORRECTED-Paddy Power takes on Milan bourse for new gambling stunt

(Corrects date to 2014 from 2013 in paragraph 8 of story published on Jan. 23)

MILAN, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Irish bookmaker Paddy Power , known for its provocative advertising and innovative gambling products, projected a slot machine on the Milan stock exchange on Wednesday to promote its expansion in the growing online Italian gambling market.

The Dublin-based group said it aims to become one of the top five online bookmakers this year in the growing Italian market, dominated by local operators Lottomatica, privately owned Sisal, and Snai.

"We are very close to that target," Giovanna D'Esposito, managing director of the Irish bookmaker's Italian business, said at the presentation.

Paddy Power's share of Italy's online sports betting market rose to 5.1 percent in December from 2.6 percent in September, according to regulator AAMS.

It trailed Lottomatica, which leads with a 15.6 percent market share, Snai, Sisal, Bwin Italia and Eurobet Italia.

The bookmaker, which last year depicted Jesus casting out illegal gamblers in an advertisement banned by media, projected slot machine cards on the Milan bourse after markets closed on Wednesday to the surprise of few employees still at work.

The images included a "middle finger" sculpture by contemporary artist Maurizio Cattelan and a message reading: "Dealers, financiers, bankers, once in a while play with your own money".

Paddy Power entered Italy's recently liberalised gaming industry last May and launched its online casino products last month. It plans to add skill games, poker and bingo by 2014, while boosting its mobile offerings.

It said it plans to increase its staff in Italy by 30 percent to a total of 50 jobs this year.

Online gaming in Italy grew 1.9 percent to 749 million euros ($995 million) in 2012, despite a contracting economy. ($1 = 0.7530 euros) (Reporting by Antonella Ciancio; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jane Baird)

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