ALBANIA BANS SPORTS BETTING & ONLINE GAMBLING
The Albanian parliament late last week passed a law banning several forms of gambling in a major move aimed at preventing and minimising illegal activities surrounding match fixing as well as curbing gambling addiction.
The measure is also intended to protect Albanians’ “household finances”. The new laws will take effect at the beginning of 2019, leaving operators little time to adjust.
The forms of gambling being banned include pretty much all forms of sports betting, including betting shops and online sports betting services, as well as venues offering slot machines. Exemptions are carved out for casino venues located within larger hotels, the National Lottery, and a bingo service operated over television.
Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama has previously spoken out against links between some of the country’s betting companies and organized crime and has promised to close down all online gambling sites. The gaming industry has said that it intends to protest the ban, and to claim compensation.
It appears thus far that some gambling operations may be permitted to continue both in tourist areas and outside of towns and residential areas. It also appears that all online gambling will in fact be made illegal at the end of the year and that resources will be put towards prosecution of the law.
Prime Minister Rama, a Socialist, gained fame as a basketball player before entering politics. He has led a campaign against gambling since he came to power in 2013 and inspected and closed down many venues and operators over the first months of his government’s administration.
Albania’s case is a fascinating example of how the relationship between a nation and its gambling industry can sour, stagnate, and become corrupted and eventually condemned. As such, it should serve as a poignant reminder and warning to operators working in other parts of the world. Gambling has largely been shut down across Albania, or soon will be, first for its links to organized crime in match-fixing, money laundering and other nefarious activities, and second for causing issues with problem gambling and household finances. This is a familiar tale; look at penalties levied on major firms here in the relatively prosperous and major economy of the UK.
A better form of gambling industry, which had demonstrable benefits for the society, such as putting back a greater percentage of profits to local communities and providing better protection and treatment for problem gambling impacts, would likely have a net positive impact for Albania both in economic and social terms.
But the reality is that this hasn’t happened. Things have in fact gone far enough in the other direction that the whole relationship between the online gambling industry, at least, and the nation of Albania has been aggressively discontinued. Whether we blame the individual firms, the political administration of the country, or both, the underlying causes behind this failed relationship are human greed and short-term thinking. Maximise profits too much at the expense of the players themselves, or worse, allow corruption to infiltrate your operation, and the ultimate end game is not operating at all.