In October 2013, the Rama government organized an action to put an end to the illegal gambling business. The police action “Fund Marrëzisë” started on October 15 engaging over 6,000 police officers and closing 540 slot-machine halls, betting cafes, and casinos that were unlicensed, lacked proper documentation, or violated their permits. Any business that didn’t fulfill the technical or legal requirements was closed, their properties confiscated and their owner served with criminal indictments.
Once the action was completed, on October 25, Prime Minister Edi Rama declared in a press conference that “Albania cannot be a country where you can gamble.” He added the government was aware of
the extent of this activity [gambling], the links it has had and continues to protect with politics and the support that this activity has found until the very near past, and the cover it has secured thanks to the corruption of politics and the entire chain of economical crime in the State Police.
But today, 4 years after those declarations, nothing has changed, and gambling continues to protect its connection with politics and the government.
According to the new gambling law, approved by the government in 2015, the gambling business will be monitored by a private company. Based on this law, the government decided to build a Central Online Monitoring System (SQMO) for gambling business, which has to perform online data monitoring that will be used by the Gambling Monitoring Agency (AMLF).
In 2016, the government approved VKM no. 647, specifying the criteria for the operator who would build the system. According to the VKM, the private company would be compensated for its investment by a tariff that would be paid by licensed gambling businesses for using and maintaining the system.
The tender was opened on January 12, 2017, but because of the absence of offers was extended to January 23. Two companies took place in the public procurement procedure: the consortium Admiral Sportwetten GmbH, ATSI Spokla Akcyjna, and MC Networking shok and the consortium Qualysoft GmbH, Comtrade d.o.o., Starsat Internation shpk, and Communication Progress shpk.
The first company was announced winner and awarded a 30-year tender to develop the gambling monitoring system in Albania.
According to several media reports, one of the winning companies, MC Networking is related to the family of Prime Minister Rama.
MC Networking is 100% owned by Endri Meksi, former business partner and co-administrator of Pegasus Communications shpk, together with the brother of Prime Minister Rama, Olsi Rama.
The same company is also the local partner of the Chinese company EM.POS Ltd, which made the unrequested offer to privatize VAT collection. An investigation of Reporter showed that also in this case Olsi Rama was involved.
So it appears that the close links between the gambling business and politics have just been guaranteed for another thirty years.