Albania’s government is aiming to have a legal framework to un-ban sports betting again within the first three months of 2023.
Finance minister Delina Ibrahimaj said the government has been working “intensively” over the last few months on a sports-betting law, during a press conference on December 28, 2022.
Ibrahimaj said the law aims to allow sports betting, which is currently banned, while also taking into consideration existing restrictions and frameworks.
“We are in the process of finalisation, during the next year we will start the procedures for the approval of the law,” Ibrahimaj said.
In terms of a timeline for reintroducing sports betting, the minister said that within the first three months of 2023 the law is expected to be approved in parliament.
During the press conference, a presentation was given on Albania’s wider economic situation, which indicated the country’s economic performance was more positive than expected.
Economic growth for the first nine-month period was 4.23 percent, while the Ministry of Finance and Economy continues to predict that the year 2022 will end with economic growth of 3.7 percent, according to the government’s figures.
Despite this strong economic performance, several stakeholders, including gambling operators, sports groups and politicians, have argued over the past few years that the government has been missing out on additional funds from the gambling industry due to its sports-betting ban.
Prime Minister Edi Rama initially banned sports betting in 2018, highlighting high levels of gambling among 10- to 15-year-olds, the strain on families and the fact that he believed the “gambling industry in Albania is largely funded by organised crime”.
In 2019, Albania banned other forms of gambling, including land-based casinos.
However, it was Rama himself that was rumoured to be keen on the return of sports betting last year, according to a swathe of local media reports.
Additionally, last year, Rama received a petition signed by several local sports federations and the Olympic Committee calling for the return of sports betting.
“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,” the letter said.
It is estimated that the government misses out on “€17m in tax revenues each year”, according to the letter.
The group only wants sports betting to be legalised, not casinos or other sectors, but said that both local and international operators should be allowed to take part in the market.
Additionally, State Police commissioner Tonin Vocaj showed support for the relaunch of the market and called on the government in 2022 to ensure the “formalisation of online sports betting because this activity is legal in other countries”.