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Melanie Porter February 8, 2024 3 min read
North Macedonia Clears Law Keeping Gambling Away From Schools
North Macedonia’s parliament has given the green light to new legislation that would impose a ban on gambling venues located within half a kilometer from schools
The freshly passed bill in North Macedonia that would prevent casinos, gambling establishments, and betting shops from functioning in a radius of less than half a kilometer of elementary schools and high schools has received criticism from the sports betting sector.
Representatives have warned about the massive number of jobs (10,000) that would be lost as a result of the Skopje-based parliament adopting the decision outlawing these establishments when located in the proximity of the aforementioned institutions.
Aimed at offering enhanced protection to children, the new law will grant all gambling establishments, betting shops, and casinos a one-year timeframe to close or relocate to different sites that are at least half a kilometer away from institutions frequented by children and teens.
98% of Gambling Establishments Would Shut Down
According to the contents of the open letter sent to President Stevo Pendarovski by the Association of Betting Joints, the new restriction would translate to around 98% of all of the country’s gaming establishments shutting down.
Accordingly, the open letter asked Pendarovski not to sign the bill and “Be a President for all.”
The association also pleaded for the President not to have them “expelled from Macedonia,” claiming that 10,000 of their employees along with their loved ones would be given no other choice but to look for jobs in the same sector abroad.
The hot and controversial topic was debated last year throughout the country, with associations that oppose gambling asking that children and teenagers benefit from better protection from the habit that can cause addiction.
Similar demands were made for a large percentage of the adults who also pay regular visits to betting and gambling facilities placed at almost every corner in North Macedonian cities and towns.
As expected, gambling establishments counterattacked, arguing they represent an important employer in the country that only counts 1.8 million people, and that they also do their jobs following the laws, along with families.
Suspicions also arose regarding the real purpose behind the bill. According to industry representatives, the new legislation could allegedly be used to put current brick-and-mortar establishments out of business and allow new players to join the digital gambling world.
Their complaints were even louder when the government enabled new private players to access the online gambling market, despite the heated talks regarding the need to protect minors.
The President Hints He Will Not Sign the Law
President Pendarovski suggested he would not put his signature on the law.
At the same time, he also complained about the fact that the bill was put into parliament during a fast-paced procedure, which he labeled as being a misuse of a process that is normally employed for high-priority laws required by the European Union.
As the deadline for the bill to enter the parliament’s vote was fast approaching, the President showed more restraint, asking to see the exact contents of the legislation before he could decide whether he would sign it or not.
Last October, a similar bill initiated by a group of parliamentarians in Romania asked that gambling operators stop being allowed to operate at 300 meters (984 feet) or closer to buildings dedicated to schools, campuses, educational objectives, playgrounds, religious cults, and cultural institutions.
In August 2021, a study released by the University of Bristol revealed that there were more gambling venues than supermarkets in the country.