The draft legislation aims to reverse the four-year-long prohibition on sports betting and non-casino gambling in Albania, which was implemented in 2018.
The Albanian government is currently in the process of reviewing a draft law that proposes to lift the country’s ban on gambling. Since January 2019, gambling has been prohibited outside of state-sanctioned casinos in Albania as part of the nation’s efforts to meet the requirements for European Union membership. However, the draft law aims to put an end to this ban.
The ban on gambling in Albania was initially implemented in response to concerns from the European Union regarding organised crime and money laundering in the country. However, Prime Minister Edi Rama announced last year that the government intends to lift the ban, citing its failure to effectively reduce crime as the reason for the proposed change.
Strict AML measures
The Ministry of Finance and Economy has formulated the draft law, which includes provisions for stringent anti-money laundering (AML) measures and customer compliance regulations. Under the proposed law, operators would be permitted to accept digital payments solely from authorised agents that are licensed by the Bank of Albania. This would encompass local banks as well as companies such as Western Union and The Albanian Post.
The draft law stipulates that gambling operators would be required to register their business entities with the National Business Centre. As part of the registration process, the management and shareholders of these entities would undergo scrutiny for any criminal convictions or ongoing judicial processes related to criminal offenses. This measure aims to ensure that only reputable and law-abiding entities are allowed to operate in the gambling industry in Albania.
According to the draft law, gambling operators would be required to comply with additional regulations, including the following:
- Data Retention: Operators must retain players’ personal data for a minimum of three years.
- Winnings Guarantee: Operators would need to guarantee winnings to players, ensuring that they receive their rightful winnings.
- Financial Requirements: Operators must maintain a designated bank account with a minimum balance of €1.5 million or at least 5% of all deposits made by players in the previous financial year.
- Creation of Special Fund: A special fund would be established, utilizing 15% of the corporate income tax paid by operators. These funds would be allocated towards sports, culture, and welfare projects. State institutions would have the opportunity to pitch for additional funds for their respective projects from gambling taxes.
- Additional Taxes for Land-based Casinos and National Lottery: Land-based casinos would be required to deposit 0.4% of their annual turnover on top of the 15% corporate income tax, while the National Lottery would pay 5.4% of their annual turnover.
These measures aim to introduce stricter financial regulations, ensure responsible gambling practices, and channel funds towards beneficial projects for the welfare of the Albanian society.
Sports federations, including the national Olympic Committee, have been advocating for the lifting of the gambling ban in Albania. These groups have written to the Albanian government, urging them to reintroduce regulated sports betting as a means to generate revenue to support sports-related activities.
Prior to the ban, Albania was reported to have over 4,700 gambling shops across the country. However, the new draft law does not outline any specific limit on the number of licenses that will be issued, indicating that the government may not impose a cap on the number of operators in the industry if the law is enacted.
The reintroduction of regulated sports betting could potentially provide a source of revenue for sports-related projects and initiatives in Albania, as advocated by sports federations. Nevertheless, careful regulation and monitoring would be essential to ensure responsible gambling practices and mitigate any potential negative impacts associated with gambling.