Minister Ahmetaj: Casinos Away from Schools

After Parliament postponed the full enforcement of the 2015 gambling law with two years on December 22, 2016, the Ministry of Finance recently published a series of executive orders by Minister of Finance Arben Ahmetaj that anticipate and regulate this enforcement, something which it had failed to do for a year after the initial approval of the law by Parliament on December 21, 2015.

The argumentation for the postponement given by six deputies that cosigned the draft law to delay the enforcement (one of which withdrew in the process), was the damage the immediate enforcement of the law would do to the state budget. The law would restrict the location of casinos and slot machine halls, leading to a loss of income for the state. Minister Ahmetaj projected the loss at €18 million, while the deputies valued it at €116 million. Neither of the numbers were supported by an independent study of the economical value of the gambling industry in Albania.

In spite of the postponement of the enforcement of the gambling law caused by its own failure, Minister Ahmetaj has now ordered to begin its implementation through a series of six executive orders. The orders relate to several requirements specified in the gambling law, but the new “distance requirement” will have strongest impact on this type of business.

According to executive order no. 5, art. 2(h), gambling venues will have to respect the distance requirements with regard to religious institutions, schools, and higher education institutions, as specified in the gambling law, art. 7(4). They will need to be at least 100 m away (interpreted in terms of a direct point-to-point aerial transit path) from those institutions.

Casinos, “sports cafes,” slot machine halls, and other gambling venues will need to present appropriate and certified measurements within six months at the the Gambling Oversight Authority (AMLF), as well as their plans to move their business in case it falls within the prohibit 100 m zone. Thanks to the postponement granted by Parliament, gambling venues will have until December 31, 2018, to comply with the law.