As of 1 January 2019 gambling will be banned in Albania as part of a crackdown on on organised crime and money laundering.
The law, which was passed by the Albanian parliament in November will result in the closure of some 4,300 betting shops and the prohibition of online gambling. All casinos apart from those found in in five-star hotels in licensed tourist sites will be also be shut down. The national lottery will, however, continue to operate.
According to official figures, Albanians spend between 140 and 150 million euros a year on sports betting. But taking into account illegal gambling, this figure goes up to 700 million euros, according to government estimates. For socialist Prime Minister Edi Rama, the aim of the legislation is to prevent organised crime from profiting from the industry, which also often serves as a front for money laundering. But “the war (against organised crime) will continue, as criminals change their strategy,” he said in an interview on Albanian television in November.
Ahead of the vote, which passed unanimously, Rama, said: “We are waging a frontal war with the evil entrenched deeply in our society over the years.”
Rama said a special task force would be set up to shut down any online gambling sites that continue to operate in the country.
“They might keep changing sites, and we’ll keep shutting them down,” he said.
Representatives of sports betting companies have vowed to fight the ban and seek compensation.
Rama has led a campaign against gambling in Albania since his socialist party swept to power five years ago in a landslide election victory. Within five months of his triumph, some 1,300 betting premises had undergone inspections, with many being closed down due to allegations of financial mismanagement.