From: Alice Taylor
Pressure Mounts to Legalise Sports Betting in Albania

The Commanding Director of the State Police, Tonin Vocaj, who took over on Wednesday after his predecessor Gledis Nano was fired, has come out in support of legalising sports betting in a speech just hours after he was appointed.

Albania banned sports betting in 2019, closing hundreds of betting shops and casinos throughout the country. In addition, it banned online gambling by blocking access to gambling sites although many remained available to Albanian customers.

Vocaj said that some 6000 links to gambling sites had been banned since 2019 but it was tough to go after those with services in countries where it was legal and where it was not possible to collaborate with authorities. He then suggested that sports betting should be legal, joining a growing number of stakeholders who have asked the same from the government in the last weeks.

“We suggest the revision of the gambling law for the formalization of online sports betting also due to the fact that this activity is legal in other countries. Games of chance like casinos should not be allowed,” Vocaj said.

Last week, a coalition of Albanian 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 for the development of sports, and sports infrastructure as well as to support the youth,” they argue.

Prime Minister Edi Rama commented on the push on Thursday, stating that if the decision goes ahead, very strong conditions will be imposed, and all revenue will go to sports, culture, and youth.

“We will look at this very positively, we will set very strong conditions, we will definitely ask if this will be done, it will be done with international companies, we will not allow the recycling of any kind of thing that does not bring here the peak of transparency, the peak of guarantees for players and definitely the peak of legality, and these are guaranteed by large international companies, which operate worldwide and operate in the European Union area”.

He added, “I have been very clear 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, sport will take it.”

Additionally, the signatories state that the decision to close betting shops three years ago was correct as there were too many establishments across the country. However, they state that sports betting continues informally, and the proceeds end up financing crime.