Albania’s New Ban on Gambling Takes Effect Jan. 1, 2019

While Sweden is gearing up for the upcoming re-organization of its gambling market on January 1, 2019, Albania, a tiny country in the south-east, will enforce a nearly full ban on the provision of gambling

After years of attempts to curb the proliferation of gambling in one of Europe’s poorest countries, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama finally succeeded earlier this year in passing a legislation that targets betting shops, online gaming and betting, and casinos.

Under the legislative piece, which was passed by the Parliament in late October, Albania’s 4,300 betting shops will close doors on January 1, 2019. According to the latest rounds of reports, some of the gambling facilities have already been shuttered, while others are looking to scoop last-minute revenues and are planning to remain operational up until the ban comes into force.

The legislation also prohibits the provision of online gambling services to Albanian customers. However, people with knowledge of the matter have told local media that many of the providers of such services have moved to Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo, where they can operate and target Albanians despite the fresh ban.

The nation’s casinos will, too, suffer from the reforms in the local gambling law. Facilities of this kind will only be allowed to operate at five-star hotels in designated tourist areas.

War on Social Ills and Organized Crime

Prime Minister Rama has been a staunch opponent of gambling since he stepped in as Albania’s top lawmaker five years ago. Ahead of the October vote, Mr. Rama told local media that they were “waging a frontal war with the evil entrenched deeply in [their] society over the years.”

According to official statistics, Albanians annually gamble around €150 million at the nation’s legal gambling facilities. However, taking into account illegal gambling, the figure goes all the way up to €700 million, analysts believe. The average salary in Albania stands at below €300 per month.

Prime Minister Rama has said that once the ban comes into force, a special unit would be assembled to shut down any gambling websites that target Albanians. He went on that providers might keep changing sites but they would keep shutting those down.

Protecting one of Europe’s poorest countries from the social ills often related to gambling has taken a core role in Albania’s new anti-gambling strategy. According to a study conducted by the University of Tirana, one of four gamblers have attempted suicide as a result from their habit. Another 70% have struggled with stress and related psychological issues.

Iris Luarasi, who runs a counseling service for domestic violence victims, has said that they have discovered a close link between excessive gambling and domestic violence.

Albania will also look to cut a cash flow for organized crime by banning most forms of gambling. Prime Minister Rama has said that gangs have long been using the gambling industry to launder the proceeds from their criminal activities. He has further noted that with the enforcement of the ban, the war against organized crime will not end. It will continue “as criminals change their skin and strategy”, the lawmaker has added.

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