Albania Un-Bans Sports Betting

February 16, 2024
Albania is set to reopen its online sports-betting market after its parliament narrowly approved a draft law, soon after a vote on the changes was delayed. 

Albania is set to reopen its online sports betting market after its parliament narrowly approved a draft law, soon after a vote on the changes was delayed.

On Thursday (February 15), Albania’s parliament approved draft legislation containing additions and changes to the country’s primary gambling law, as well as a set of relevant amendments to the original proposal, with 72 votes. There are 140 seats in the parliament. 

The law also includes changes to bingo and lottery rules, introduces new advertising restrictions and adds a requirement for online sports-betting operators to pay into a “special fund” for sports, culture, innovation and technology.

Gambling was banned in Albania outside five-star hotels in 2018 over alleged links to organised crime.

The vote occurred during an “abnormal session, caused by the actions of the parliamentary opposition”, according to an update provided on the parliament’s website soon after the vote took place. 

Bitter disputes between Albania’s ruling parties and opposition groups have frequently disrupted parliamentary activity in recent months. In November, opposition politicians set off flares inside the voting chamber in an attempt to derail a 2024 budget.

Approval of the gambling law comes after a vote during a plenary session was delayed on February 8. The chairman of the ruling Socialist Party filed a last-minute request to withdraw the discussion of the draft law.

A subsequent mistake on the Albanian parliament’s website led to widespread misreporting that the bill had been approved last week.

The amendments allow for a maximum of ten new sports-betting licences to be handed out and require that the “applicant entity or, at least, one of its shareholders has experience in the field of gambling no less than three EU/OECD countries and for no less than three years”.

A draft of the proposed changes was first published in April 2023, after Prime Minister Edi Rama, who banned sports betting in 2018, admitted to local media that the country had failed to stop people from betting on unlicensed sites.

“We, as experience shows, have not been able to stop it, just like other countries have not done it. 

“Instead of remaining an informal activity where dirty money circulates, it should be an activity where large international companies will enter and there will be guarantees for the players. According to the law, all revenues will go to sports and technology,” Rama said last year.

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