Monday January 20,2014 : MACEDONIA INTENT ON ONLINE GAMBLING MONOPOLY?
Under the guise of protecting the public interest
The Republic of Macedonia is reportedly planning on blocking access to foreign betting sites and has partnered with Austrian gambling firm Casinos Austria in a joint venture that will see the launch of online betting in the country.
“With the start of games organized by the State Video Lottery, institutions such as the Electronic Communications Agency and the Information Society Ministry will disable internet gambling and betting on world websites for players at home,” said government spokesperson Aleksandar Gjorgiev.
The joint venture under the company name "State Video Lottery" will launch the domestic online lottery games during the first half of 2014, followed by online sports betting and online gaming.
51 percent of the interest in the company is owned by the State, while the other 49 percent by the Austrian operator. Casinos Austria will reportedly cover the cost of setting up the operation with an investment of Euro 6 million.
Zoran Ricliev, digital media producer at Media Print Macedonia, however, says the censorship is "a precedent done only be countries like China or North Korea" and sensibly opines that its one thing to make gambling or betting illegal but quite another to disable citzen's access to certain sites in order to favour others.
Ricliev directed his concerns to Gjorgiev at a media conference, saying: “The danger is that if you prohibit one page, what prevents you tomorrow from prohibiting another by coming up with any kind of excuse? Why disable access to a page that is legal elsewhere?”
“European practice has shown that state regulation of this area, besides the positive fiscal effects, decreases the number of players, which goes along the line of protecting the public interest,” Gjorgiev replied.
Revenues from taxes derived from the online venture will be allocated towards health and environment funding while also providing assistance to vulnerable groups.
Our readers will recall bwin.party's withdrawal from the Macedonia market along with 17 other markets in April 2013.