Albania In Large-scale Gambling Crackdown

Albania In Large-scale Gambling Crackdown ( Click to Enlarge )

In a follow-up to gambling bans in major cities, the Albanian parliament has passed legislation to ban sports betting and online gambling. It will take effect on 1 January 2019, and was passed by a unanimous vote from the 75 members of the governing socialist party.

The new laws will ban the operation of all casinos, racebooks, sportsbooks and sports betting shops in residential areas all around the country – the only exemptions will be in specific tourist regions and high-class hotels.

Gambling Industry Numbers

The gambling industry in Albania is run by private enterprises, generating in excess of €130 million every year while paying around €50 million in taxes and employing some 7,000 people.

When the new law kicks in, all existing gambling facilities, including online casinos, will have to move to bases outside of residential areas to continue operating, and this is bound to have a significant impact on the statistics listed above.

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with a GDP per capita around 35% of the EU average. Consequently, the government feels that the problem of gambling has been a long-standing issue.

There has been speculation that rises in domestic violence and divorces are linked to gambling disorders, with lower-income Albanians being disproportionately affected.

Ironically, these tough new anti-gambling laws have been passed amid expectations that the country plans to establish a gambling monopoly to profit from the tax revenues that it could bring. The Prime Minister has called such speculation “slander” but Olsi Rama, his own brother, runs a licensed sports betting website that is one of the country’s largest.

So Why The Crackdown?

Prime Minister Rama stated to parliament that the gambling industry, particularly sports betting, is an “evil” that has taken hold in society, and that the new laws are a “frontal assault” on that evil.

The annual turnover from sports betting in Albania alone was €700 million last year, before taking online sports betting into account. There were no statistics made available for the nation’s online and brick-and-mortar casinos.

Prime Minister Rama also warned that a large proportion of Albania’s betting industry was owned by organised crime syndicates. He warned that if such entities sought to take their activities online, the government would find them and force such sites to close.