Tirana, Albania | 25 Oct 2018 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s ruling socialist majority has voted unanimously during today’s plenary session in parliament to ban all betting sites across the country, including all online gambling websites. The vote was boycotted by opposition Democratic Party, Socialist Movement for Integration and the Republicans.
The hugely popular new proposals got 75 socialist votes out of 140 total seats and is seen as a major turn in Albania’s position towards betting shops, which have flourished across the country in recent years.
The vote follows a previous approval of amendments to the betting law by the Parliamentary Committee on Economy & Finance, which signaled the intention of Edi Rama’s government to go ahead with the closure of all betting sites.
Governing socialists say the measures have been prompted by widespread concerns that betting shops have become endemic across Albania, with thousands of men and young men spending their days and money across betting sites.
In addition to legislative changes approved today, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Economy & Finance Erion Braçe proposed the doubling of the tax on gambling winnings in remaining or future casinos in Albania from the current 15% to 30%.
The proposal is expected to be included as part of the upcoming fiscal package currently under discussion at the Council of Ministers.
Despite the iron will to amend the law, opposition representatives had previously accused prime minister Rama of seeking to concentrate the monopoly of gambling in the hands of a handful few with close links to the current socialist government.
The gambling sector reportedly boasts over €600m Euros in annual revenues, employing around 26,000 people. It’s sites are allegedly being used regularly for money laundering by members of criminal groups.
In practice, the legal amendments mean that starting from the 1st of January 2019, all betting activity will become illegal in Albania, until further licenses are granted to 5 star hotels in touristic areas in the future.
PM Rama praised the amendments and warned the measures are a clear message for organised crime in Albania.
“This is a decision supported by over 70% of our population and over 92% of Albanian women. This is a decision which goes beyond all daily political and social debates in Albania”, he said in Parliament.
Critics accuse Rama of using the measure to lure female voters ahead of next year’s local elections, however, there is widespread support against betting sites which have flourished and multiplied across Albania’s neighborhoods in recent years.
Albania expects to formally start membership talks with the European Union next year, following a positive recommendation by the European Commission earlier this year.
The EU in turn, expects Albania to show tangible results in its fight against organised crime and corruption, as well as to substantially reform its highly corrupt judiciary system.
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