Ruling Socialists Vow to Ban All Betting Sites in Albania, Including Online Gambling, as Several MPs Receive Threats Ahead of Crucial Vote in Parliament

Tirana, Albania | 24 Oct 2018 (Tirana Echo) – Albania’s ruling socialist majority has vowed to press ahead with a hugely popular law which will see all betting sites across the country banned by the end of 2018, including all online gambling websites.

The radical measures were announced earlier this month by Prime Minister Edi Rama who promised his party would go ahead with voting the proposed bill in parliament.

Yesterday, Albanian ruling socialists moved a step closer to the measures, with the Parliamentary Committee on Economy & Finance agreeing to the amendments and sending the bill to parliament for approval on Thursday.

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. 

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. 

Following the amendments at the Finance Committee, its head Erion Braçe MP said that starting from the 1st of January 2019, all betting activity will become illegal in Albania, adding that several MPs have received threatening messages not to back the proposed measures.

No more betting as of 1st of January. This begun in 2015 when our ruling majority decided to put the sector under control. I believe the battle will be fierce. Members of our Economy Committee and their family relatives are under permanent pressure as their vote threatens the interests of this market”, said Braçe for Report TV.

PM Rama praised the amendments and warned the measures are a clear message for organised crime in Albania.

Thanks to MPs at the Economy & Finance Committee, for supporting the project-law on betting activity. Now to the Legal Affairs Committee and on Thursday all of us in Parliament. This is for our mothers and wives first and foremost, and a clear message to organised crime”, said Rama.

The law is expected to be voted tomorrow in Parliament by the ruling socialist MPs and will enter into force on the 1st of January 2019.

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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