And isn’t there a risk that people will flee to the illegal gambling market through such a restrictive policy? What is hardly conceivable in Germany and many other countries has now been officially decided by the city council in Bratislava. A large majority has agreed on a complete ban on gambling in the Slovak capital. However, this does not mean that all gambling venues had to close immediately when it came into force on January 1, 2021. Existing licenses are tolerated until they expire.
Just one vote against the gambling ban
What was surprising about the vote was that 39 out of 40 eligible voters voted for a complete ban on gambling. So only one voter was against the proposed ban on gambling. This was preceded by a petition in which the residents of Bratislava voted 73,434 signatures for a ban on all gambling offers. That corresponds to about every sixth inhabitant of the Slovak capital.
As early as 2018, a citizens’ initiative proposed a complete ban on gambling. As a result, local politics initially only tightened the gambling guidelines. This was accompanied, for example, by the requirement that gambling halls are no longer allowed within a radius of 200 meters from educational or addiction treatment directions. The same restricted area has also applied to schools since November 2019. So now there is a complete ban on gambling.
Bratislava is not only the capital, but also the largest city in Slovakia with more than 437,000 inhabitants. From the German capital Berlin it is only about 650 kilometers to Bratislava. All in all, only about 5.4 million people live in Slovakia.
Existing gambling establishments are still tolerated
However, the existing gambling establishments in the city will not have to close immediately when the law comes into force. They are allowed to stay open until their gaming licenses expire. Logically, however, no new licenses will be issued from now on. This is reported by the local newspaper “The Slovak Spectator”, among others. Most of the existing licenses are expected to end in 2023 and 2024. Until then, the existing gaming facilities such as arcades may remain open regularly.
According to our research, there are currently just under 90 venues in Bratislava. There are also two bingo halls and six casinos or casinos. In the past, gambling was banned in Slovakia for a reasonable period of two years.
Gambling industry outraged
Representatives of the Slovak gaming industry were outraged by the politicians’ plans. They fear that the majority of gamblers will be drawn to the unregulated market. The spokeswoman for the Association for Entertainment, Dominika Lukacova, sees it similarly. She expresses concern about the future and fears more crime:
“The only novelty is the invitation of criminal groups to engage in illegal gambling, which was officially issued today by the Bratislava City Council.”
As expected, the citizens’ initiative welcomed the gambling ban and praised the politicians for not addressing the concerns of the casino operators. These recently demanded at least an exemption for gambling offers in hotels. But no compromise has been found here either, so a complete ban will remain. It should be noted, however, that the ban only applies to the Slovak capital, Bratislava. In other cities and regions of the country, gambling will therefore initially remain permitted.
It is actually questionable whether the consistent political approach will be successful in the long term. Ultimately, it is to be feared that the players will look for other ways to participate in the game of chance. In addition to the local illegal black market, which could very likely arise, players could of course also migrate to the numerous online casinos. A control by the authorities is only much more difficult here.
In 2019 alone, the city of Bratislava received around 2.8 million euros from gambling activities. You will soon have to forego this amount completely.
The gambling ban that has now been adopted in Bratislava is no longer a real surprise after the developments in recent months and years. What is impressive, however, is the overwhelming majority (39 out of 40 votes) who voted for the abolition of gambling in the Slovak capital. However, it will be a few years before the last gaming license expires. It will be interesting to see how the black market in Bratislava will develop and whether there will be more illegal gambling offers, as predicted by the gambling industry. With the new law, politicians in Bratislava have apparently given up the possibility of creating or maintaining a regulated and protected gambling market for gamblers.