A coalition of Albanian sports stakeholders has petitioned the government to allow the reintroduction of regulated and supervised sports betting in the country, arguing it can bring much-needed revenue to the state.
Gambling was banned in Albania in January 2019, seeing the closure of thousands of betting shops around the country. Online gambling and casinos were also forbidden, except for a handful that was issued special permits.
The letter, signed by several sports federations and the Olympic Committee, asks that some of the money from betting be used to support athletes in the country.
“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.
They explain that betting should be allowed via certified operators, including local companies and international names. In addition, they suggest an age limit and a maximum bet limit to reduce risks.
“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, sports infrastructure as well as to support the youth,” they argue.
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.
Fidel Ylli, head of the Olympic Committee, said during a speech at the Prime Minister’s Office to welcome champion athlete Luiza Gega that it is time to bring betting companies out of the darkness.
“It was good that they were closed, I was in the parliament, and I voted. They were like mushrooms in the rain. Prime Minister, the whole world has betting companies. Yes, we are so rich that we leave this money on the street,” he said, stating that money could be used to fund a new Olympic centre.
Since the gambling ban came into force, there has been a steady stream of busts of illegal betting and gambling dens, with many others going under the radar. Furthermore, in terms of online gambling, although the government was supposed to block gambling sites, many of the big names are available with no issues or obstacles.
The win of Luiza Gega and her crowning as European Champion for the women’s 3000-metre steeplechase has reignited a debate about the state of Albanian sports.
Athletes are forced to train abroad, usually at their own cost, and the state provides little financial support.