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BIRN: SP does not find consensus on the sports betting law

BIRN: SP does not find consensus on the sports betting law

A government bill to bring back online sports betting is failing to find agreement among majority MPs due to a lack of control mechanisms and problems with taxation - while the opposition calls it "a clientelistic law".

The Committee for Economy and Finance discussed on Thursday without result the amendments to the law "On games of chance", which foresees their return online five years after the "Rama" government closed them by law. In an online meeting with the presence of only the deputies of the majority, a consensus was not reached on the new changes proposed for the government draft by the chairman of the commission, Eduart Shalsi.

From the start, Shalsi admitted that these changes do not solve the challenge of managing this market, asking the Ministry of Finance to draft a new, more complete law. The first proposal was related to the way the competition was organized by setting an extra fee for companies winning licenses to organize these games.

"Since the license will be for 10 years, the competition should be organized in two stages, an initial competition with basic completion of legal documents and the second stage to have a financial component," - said Shalsi, clarifying that the criterion should be "who invests more ” with the idea of ​​a floor auction. The second proposal was related to the construction of a system that will leave a trace of all transactions that will take place in online gaming and sports betting companies.

"There is a concession that will remain in force, but it is suggested that this type of system, including monitoring, be monitored in real time on a record," he added. He admitted that the commission had received numerous proposals and one of them was the request from the former betting companies that activity in 3 foreign countries should not be a disqualifying condition, but a minimum of years in this field. This request was not accepted and Shalsi clarified that the commission will stick to the definition of the criterion that the company has no less than 3 years of experience in this field in the 3 OECD countries.

According to him, the percentage of shares that the foreign shareholder will have will have to be determined according to local legislation, which is another limiting criterion. Deputy Erion Braçe, who has opposed this draft law from the start, also opposed the new proposals, saying that - "what is proposed is to release it without hands at all, to spread it everywhere".

"Do we want to legalize it and control it or are we just legalizing it and letting it go free?" - asked Braçe, finding that the law has no measures to control it. Braçe proposed that the online betting platform be state-owned and monopolized as the only way to control illegal activity. Even other socialist MPs criticized the government's project and continued to insist that the tax on the companies that will be licensed is zero, questioning the benefit of the state.

"They cannot pay taxes less than those who exercise commercial activity" - said Alban Xhelili, calling the anticipated tax "unfair". He also spoke about the risk of manipulation, referring to consultations with representatives of betting companies. According to Xhelil, these lack of guarantees on their platforms can lead to evasion, but also to elements of money laundering.

Even MP Pranvera Resulaj asked for a higher tax for betting companies. After the debates, Shalsi admitted that 100 percent formalization of the market could not be claimed, but at least the changes aim to legalize the illegal market that is currently there.

The opposition has also strongly opposed this government draft law. Democratic MP Jorida Tabaku told BIRN that even the new changes proposed on this draft do not change the perception that it is a "clientelistic law".

"The government continues the tradition of custom and clientelistic laws," said Tabaku, describing the changes as "favoring a minority, punishing the majority and deepening inequality both in the sense of taxing these businesses and in establishing rules."

"There is still no clarity on how to operate with foreign companies that must be partners with Albanian ones," she emphasized, adding that, "these ambiguities create serious problems, considering that most of the contracts that SPAK is testing as corrupt and investigated them, they had foreign companies"./Reporter.al

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