East Europe has an interesting relationship with casinos. People love and hate them. Greece taxes them to the point of breaking and Belarus is experimenting with them. Albania, on the other hand, intends to erase them from the face of Earth.
Albanian Overhaul of Casinos & Gambling
Albania has announced that it will seek to erase all casinos from residential areas and shift them towards regions that are specifically-designated for recreational purposes. This will come as part of a future and yet unspecified gambling law that will overhaul the activities in the country.
On Tuesday, the country’s Prime Minister Edi Rama spoke to representatives of the media and said that Albania will be shifting all betting venues, be that a casino or a bookmaker, outside residential areas by December 31, 2018.
This leaves a very narrow window for operators to actually comply with the measure. All venues will have to relocate their establishments at the outskirts of cities, which will create quite a bit of confusion, not to mention that it will also take a toll on jobs, revenue and quite possibly – the ability of these operators to actually run their business.
While Rama is partly right to seek a tighter control on gambling, he has been doing it in a manner that hints at an authoritarian rule. For instance, he also demanded that broadcasters and all media outlet take down any gambling ads effectively within 24 hours of the announcement.
A New Dawn for Gambling in Albania
Rama has justified his more extreme approach by arguing that the existing legislation has failed, particularly where advertisement is concerned. All media, Rama estimated, have been flouting the regulations and will as a result suffer the consequences.
He additionally announced that the Gambling Commission regulating and overseeing all related activities in the country will be suspended until December 31, 2018 when the government will push with its proposed plans on regulating gambling.
Given Rama’s immutable stance on gambling, this is not going to be good news for the industry as a whole. His crusade against the industry began as early as 2013, when he said that he would prevent international operators from taking bets from Albanian citizens. Going up against these laws may be necessary, but difficult to pull off.
Another common gripe of Rama’s circle has been that casinos haven’t been paying their fair share, and there’s merit in this. Not everyone has been a sworn hardliner on the gambling industry, though.
For example, Albania’s President Ilir Meta tried to introduce a tax break which was met with hostile opposition in Parliament and subsequently vetoed. With this in mind, the country is clearly headed for a place where it will hold a tighter control over its gambling industry. Possibly to the point where it may be bad for business, many predict.
Greece recently took measures on its own casinos, but rather than lambast them, the government hiked the tax while looking into ways for the operators to stay open. Back in September, Greek casinos said that they would contest an RNG exclusion.
Gambling, though, has often been a divisive issue. However, in places like Switzerland, it helps the pension system a great deal, even if it’s unloved.