Albania Approves State-Run Sports Betting Monopoly, Closes Shops
Albania is considering instituting a state-run monopoly over sports betting as a way of curbing gambling negative impact on its society, according to The Tirana Times. Along with the monopoly, Albania plans to enforce a ban on commercial sports betting.
A report on the proposed legislation said, “We are considering the possibility of treating sports betting and betting on races as a state monopoly and allowing their operation by specially set up state structures.”
The ban will not be complete. The Albanian National Lottery and televised bingo games can continue unimpeded with its sportsbook operations. Tourist areas and 5-star hotels will be allowed to have sports betting.
Wagering in non-residential areas also will be allowed. That leaves a lot of ways for tourists to enjoy sports betting, while curtailing the activity for residents. Online sports betting will be targeted, but betting shops are the main target.
Albanian Gambling Laws
The idea is to limit the consumption of gambling by Albanian citizens, leaving roughly $805,000,000 in the people’s hands. Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe, so national politicians believes the curtailment will help the economy and the society as well.
Opponents of the deal, including the lobby for licensed sports betting companies, focused on the loss of jobs due to the new law. One critic said in parliamentary debate, “We want to remind the Prime Minister, the Assembly and all the state institutions that our companies represent about 10,000 direct and indirect employees.”
“In addition, there are about 4,000 object owners (betting shops) who are all concerned about their unclear future in Albania.”
Edi Rama’s Sports Betting Monopoly
The main politician behind the proposed state-run sports betting monopoly is closely tied to Albanian sports. Edi Rama, the prime minister, also happens to have been a professional basketball player, playing for Dinamo Tirana and the Albanian National Team.
In debate over the new law, Edi Rama said the word ‘monopoly’ was an overstatement. The prime minister said, “This has been organized by the jail, and by those who hide behind companies, so do not panic and do not even hear the slander for an ‘online monopoly’, because there will not be any kind of monopoly.”
Rama was backed by his allies in the Socialist Party, who said they were passing the law to protect the people of the country from out of control gambling.
Bankruptcy and Domestic Violence Cited
It is hard to gauge the impact the ban and state-run monopoly would have on Albanian society. The Tirana Times claims the ban on residential gambling would have a significant impact. The newspaper suggested debt, bankruptcy, domestic violence, and crime would go down due to the residential gaming ban.
That might sound incredible, but Edi Rama’s new statutes appear to be a backlash against a recent expansion of gambling — especially betting shops. Last year, Albanians gambled about $160,000,000, with the government collecting about $60,000,000. That represents about a 10% increase over the previous year.
Backlash vs. Betting Shops
A big part of that yearly increase was the swelling number of betting shops. By one count, Albania now has 3,900 betting shops, or 1 betting shop for every 730 people. Albania has a population of about 2.8 million people, or about the same population as Rome, Toronto, or Kiev. From an outside perspective, it is like having 4,000 betting shops in the city limits of Toronto.
The decision is part of a pan-European backlash against gambling. Italy recently instituted a ban on gambling advertisements during sports broadcasts, as well as a ban on sponsorships for sporting franchises. Georgia is instituting an online gambling ban and requiring ISPs to block international gaming sites. Switzerland passed a plebiscite back in the summer which would do much as the same as Georgia. The referendum passed by a 70% to 30% margin.
Ireland’s president is pushing a sports betting advertisement ban in the run-up to a national election. British MPs and top executives have called for sports betting bans.
Erjon Brace Accuses Gaming Owners of Tax Evasion
Erjon Brace, a Socialist MP, was one of the fiercest defenders of the new law. In a parliamentary debate, Brace said, “All betting points (shops) will be closed and it is useless to continue this conversation.”
To justify the closure of 3,900 businesses, Erjon Brace (pictured above) claimed the betting shop owners were evading taxes. The fiery MP stated, “The gambling industry was linked to the system, yet none of the betting companies have linked any single point with the online revenue declarations system.”