Albanian Experts Query Rama’s Move to Revive Gambling

Experts have expressed dismay after Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama on Wednesday raised the possibility of again allowing online gambling, saying the move would be harmful and regressive.

Aacknowledging his government's failure to crack down on the industry, Rama said gambling activity had continued despite the ban his party imposed a few years back.

Albania banned gambling in 2018 through an initiative of Rama's governing Socialist Party. The industry had become huge in Albania, and it was alleged that many gambling businesses were linked to criminal groups. The ban was implemented on January 1, 2019, after which only one casino was allowed to operate.

During a public hearing with sports federations, Rama said that according to some consultations he has made, it is all but impossible to curb online gambling anyway.

"This also makes me inclined to be open to this solution, because it is a pity for this activity to be carried out by people who break the law and where high-profile elements in organized crime are active [in the industry] and making completely unreasonable profits," Rama said.

Rama added that allowing online betting would also help the local economy.

But some experts remain unconvinced.

Fabian Zhilla, a security expert and professor based in Tirana, told BIRN that the government is looking into this an economic solution when the state budget is facing shortfalls.

"This kind of initiative comes in the wake of the 'fiscal amnesty' (another initative that Albania is planning to undertake) and I think there is also strong lobbying from the sports world," Zhilla told BIRN.

"But I don't think it's the right step," she added. "I don't think the government look at such resources to fix the...

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