Sports Organizations in Albania Pushing for Legal Sports Betting

Three and a half years ago, Albanian lawmakers decided that online gambling and sports betting were not welcome in the country. Sports industry insiders are now hoping they’ll have a change of heart and bring back legal sports betting.

Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama during a joint press conference after an EU-Albania Association Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in March of last year. Sports organizations have sent Rama a letter hoping to convince him to allow legal sports betting. (Image: European Pressphoto Agency)

Exit News reports that sports industry stakeholders are petitioning the Albanian government for change. They hope to convince the Balkan country to reverse its ban in order to attract new revenue.

The country’s legal world came to a halt in January 2019. All forms of online gaming stopped, as did land-based betting. Although Albania’s government maintains strict control over its internet access, illegal platforms have still been operational.

Time To Right a Wrong

The stakeholders explained in their letter that, with the ban, the government is missing out on revenue that it desperately needs. They feel the decision to implement the prohibition moved the country in the wrong direction, and that it’s time to make things right.

If Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama were to have a change of heart, the stakeholders would help draft new regulations. Among the stipulations would be guaranteed revenue for the advancement of athletes and sports. Currently, most Olympic-bound athletes have to train outside of Albania and receive no financial support.

Rama, a former basketball player, helped push the gambling ban into place. He garnered significant support in the Socialist Party, of which he’s a member, to ensure the legislation survived.

The Albanian leader was a die-hard gambling opponent, often referring to it as “pure evil.” However, in 2020, he relaxed his position and moved to create a dedicated casino zone in the city of Tirana.

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,” argue sports groups lobbying for sports betting in Albania.

The renewed push for sports betting is receiving support from several key groups. Among these are many of the country’s major sports organizations, as well as its Olympic Committee.

They stress that they only want legal sports betting – no casinos, bingo, or other activity. Both land-based and online sportsbooks could operate, with the sports organizations helping to oversee the activity. This includes ensuring “fiscal transparency,” as well as regulatory compliance.

Different Times, Different Attitudes

The stakeholders also applauded the government’s decision to shut down gambling in 2019. It said that, at that time, there was a lot of disorganization and mismanagement that prevented a mature and responsible industry. As a result of that, there were too many operators and little control.

However, the times are changing. Now, starting over from scratch, stakeholders claim Albania could build a robust and viable sports betting solution. This means protecting consumers and contributing revenue to the government.

The head of the Olympic Committee, Fidel Ylli, hopes his close relationship with the prime minister helps. He is also a Socialist Party member and a member of the Committee for Education and Public Media of Parliament.

Ylli made a similar plea for the return of sports betting earlier this year. However, it never gained traction. There’s no indication Rama has responded to the latest request, either.

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