Albania is going to reintroduce legal sports betting as of 1 January 2023, four years after it, along with casinos and online gambling, was made illegal.
The decision, which has been on the cards since the summer, will bring much-needed revenue to the government, which faces a debt of over 90%, increasing pressure to subsidise rising energy costs, and calls to support the vulnerable amid the global crisis.
Effective as of the start of next year, sports betting games will now be legal, and it is estimated that some €17 million will be collected in tax each year.
All gambling, except a handful of licensed casinos, was prohibited as of 31 December 2018. Hundreds of betting shops and gambling sites were shut down, and efforts were made to block online sites.
However, gambling continued throughout the country in illegal betting and gambling shops, with arrests occurring almost weekly.
Momentum to legalise sports betting has been growing since August when a coalition of sporting stakeholders petitioned the government to ask for the reinstitution of regulated and supervised sports betting, arguing it can bring much-needed revenue to one of Europe’s poorest countries.
“We are not proposing to open the entire range of gambling, including electronic casinos or bingo halls. Our proposal includes total fiscal transparency, league-regulated online sports betting,” the petition states.
Stakeholders suggest that revenue generated from sports betting be used to support the country’s athletes. The petition specifies that betting should be allowed via certified operators, including local and international brands. In addition, they suggest an age limit and a maximum bet limit.
“The regulation of sports betting by law is a practice followed by many Western countries. In these countries, the income from sports betting is used to develop sports and sports infrastructure and to support the youth,” they argued.
Prime Minister Edi Rama commented on the push stating that if the decision goes ahead, extreme conditions will be imposed, and all revenue will go to sports, culture and youth.
“We will look at this very positively; we will set extreme conditions…these are guaranteed by large international companies, which operate worldwide and operate in the European Union area.”
He added: “I have been obvious that these revenues, which we calculate to be many times more than what we contribute every year, go to sports, culture and youth, but very clearly and dedicatedly, the lion’s share, the sport will take it.”