Albania considers state monopoly on sports betting

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 18, 2018 14:33

Albania considers state monopoly on sports betting

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  • The state monopoly idea comes after legal changes already under way are expected to impose a ban on thousands of electronic casinos, betting and traditional bingo shops scattered in residential areas nationwide and limit their operation to tourist areas, 5-star hotels and non-residential areas

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TIRANA, Oct. 18 – The Albanian government says it is considering a state-monopoly on sports betting following their expected ban from residential areas starting next January as part of a bill that also relocates electronic casinos in a bid to curb a booming phenomenon which costs Albanians more than a hundred million euros a year and has a series of negative economic and social effects for one of Europe’s poorest countries.

The state monopoly idea comes after legal changes already under way are expected to impose a ban on thousands of electronic casinos, betting and traditional bingo shops scattered around residential areas nationwide and limit their operation to tourist areas, 5-star hotels and non-residential areas.

“We are considering the possibility of treating sports betting and betting on races as a state monopoly and allow their operation by specially set up state structures,” says a report accompanying the proposed legal changes on gambling.

Gambling is a completely privately-run industry in Albania where it officially generates more than €130 million in annual income and employs some 7,000 people, but much more if the informal sector is taken into account.

Gambling is already a state monopoly in several EU countries, but mostly privately-run in the Western Balkans.

The government says it will also discipline online gambling, currently offered by a single licensed operator, but informally by most companies.

Prime Minister Edi Rama says the legal changes will drastically limit gambling and trigger an extra €700 million in household consumption.

The main opposition Democratic Party has earlier voiced concern that the boom in the gambling industry in the past four years is a result of casinos and sports betting run by companies linked to senior government officials and organized crime and that Prime Minister Rama will likely favor an online gambling monopoly under the new law, in allegations that have been dismissed by the majority.

The ban on the booming sports betting industry comes following a two-year extension to a law disciplining gambling in downtown areas that was initially scheduled to become effective in January 2017 and is now set to become effective under new tougher amendments limiting gambling to 5-star hotels that will be determined by the government and non-residential areas.

The new legal changes do not apply to TV bingos, including the National Lottery.

The government says it has also ordered the enforcement of a complete ban on gambling advertising which it says has been largely ignored by the media.

The relocation of casinos and sports betting shops from downtown and residential is expected to provide a severe blow to a booming industry which last year generated more than €130 million in income and paid about €50 million in taxes, not to mention a significant reduction in staff and massive closure of coffee bars that serve as betting shops.

However, Albanians would practically have more disposable income and negative social effects associated with gambling such as domestic violence and divorces, would sharply reduce.

Albania had more than 3,900 betting shops at a rate of one per 730 local residents this year, setting a European record, according to data obtained by local media.

Albanians spent a record 16.6 billion lek (€132 mln) in gambling in 2017, up 10 percent compared to the previous year, according to turnover data reported by the main electronic casino, lottery and sports betting companies.

Gambling is a booming business in Albania and varies from lotteries, electronic casinos and more numerous sports betting shops. A gambling law, which has been in force for several years, bans people under 21 from entering betting shops, but regardless, teenagers are often seen there.

The booming gambling businesses is often linked to gangs laundering crime and drug proceeds. There have been also cases when even senior officials and judges have justified some of their income through winnings in betting shops or casinos in their wealth declarations.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times October 18, 2018 14:33