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Albania’s gambling shops to close in the New Year

Tue, Jan 1, 3:06am by Staff Writer

A New Year will bring gambling reform to one of Europe’s poorest nations, with Albania set to ban gambling from the start of 2019.

The Albanian parliament passed laws in October aimed at protecting household finances, with the country in the grip of a gambling addiction.

The legislation will force the closure of slot machine parlours, betting shops and all other forms of sports wagering including online sites.

Gambling at casino in five-star hotels will be permitted, as will a televised bingo game and the national lottery.

The Albanian sports betting industry has grown rapidly in recent times and has an annual turnover of 700 million euros.

It has brought into question the integrity of national sport and has drawn concern for the impact on many of the nation’s low-income families.

More than 4,000 betting venues will be shut

The law will see 4,300 betting venues shut down. This represents one shop per 670 people in a country of just 2.8 million people.

According to a study by the University of Tirana, one out of four gamblers have attempted suicide at least once.

Another 70 per cent have struggled with stress and psychological problems, according to Yahoo.

In a country where the average monthly salary is below 300 euros, Albanians have spent up to 150 million euros on sports betting alone. This does not take into account illegal betting, which is said to be rife.

One of the goals of Prime Minister Edi Rama’s legislation is to cut off cash flow for organised crime groups who profit from the industry and use it to launder money.

Mr Rama has accused the owners of betting firms of having a criminal record and links to organised crime.

A special task force would be set up to shut down any online gambling sites operating in the country he said.

“They might keep changing sites, and we’ll keep shutting them down,” Mr Rama said.

Many betting shops already closed in December, while others are using every last day to draw a profit.

Betting firms have moved to Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo where they already have subsidiaries and operate online according to the president of the Federation of Albanian Betting Companies Artan Shyti.

More than 8,000 people will be out of work once the closures have taken their full effect.

The sports betting companies attempted to compromise with the government before the legislation was passed in October.

They attempted to stop advertising and close 50 per cent of the country’s betting shops in an effort to prevent a total ban.

“The companies are evaluating the damages from the unilateral interruption of their license and mulling legal action to recover the damages,” Mr Shyti said.

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