Gambling venues in Kosovo became the sight of two murders in one week forcing the authorities to consider a ban. In an extraordinary session of the Kosovo parliament on Friday, the lawmakers approved a new measure to suspend all activities at gambling venues before a permanent ban is put into motion. The motion was put forward by Avdullah Hoti, the leader of the opposition from Democratic League of Kosovo party (DLK). It received unanimous support from all 74 sitting MPs.
Officials in Kosovo responded quickly to the parliament’s actions and enforced suspension of gambling operations at all venues. Serbian media outlet Tanjug reported that the police launched a coordinated effort with customs and tax authorities on Friday morning to ensure that all gambling venues are shut down immediately. It is expected that outlets providing the state-run Lotaria e Kosoves lottery and related betting products will be exempt from the ban.
The government is planning to bring new legislation in the next 30 days that will ban all gambling venues in Kosovo. The anti-gambling push is supported by Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj. He informed the citizens in a Facebook post that the government will seek cabinet approval of the measure in the coming week. He emphasized that casinos and betting shops cannot become “to be arenas of crime that claim people’s lives.”
According to a report in Balkan Insight, the government took action after a gambling venue staff member was murdered in the town on Suva Reka on Sunday and a police officer was arrested as a suspect in the case. Another staff member was murdered at a venue in Lipjan on Wednesday.
From a financial point of view, closing down gambling shops would not hurt the state’s economy. The sector generates only €15.8 million in taxes for the state, according to 2018 states. Interestingly, the revenue has been increasing significantly in the past few years. 2018’s revenue was over 25% higher than 2017 and 50% higher than the 2014 numbers which show that gambling finally began to find a footing in Kosovo.
The southeastern European state had 293 venues running gambling operations at the beginning of 2018, but the real number of such venues is expected to be much higher. The gambling industry of the state has surged dramatically after its neighbor Albania put a ban on gambling operations outside the designated tourist areas. It has also created an outright ban on all forms of online gambling, sending the punters to Kosovo.
The sudden change in Kosovo’s gambling plans marks a 180-degree turnaround from a concept document that the Ministry of Finance floated in January this year. The document called for a less bureaucratic red tap in the industry which could help boost the economy and create new job opportunities.