On January 1, new regulations will come into effect which is likely to mean the closure of the 4,300 betting venues that have been established throughout the country. The existing ratio of one betting shop to 670 people is significantly higher than that seen in other Balkan states as well as developed Western nations and has led to widespread concern among charities, the medical profession and politicians, about the harmful effects of gambling on the 2.8 million Albanian population.
Evidence provided by a University of Tirana study showed that around 25 percent of gamblers in the country had attempted suicide at least once, while 70 percent of Albanian gamblers face psychological problems. Other non-governmental groups have reported a strong link between domestic violence and gambling, and there is evidence that up to 70 percent of divorce cases in the capital Tirana have a gambling element.
According to government figures, Albanians spend around 140 to 150 million euros ($170 million) on sports betting every year; approximately 70 percent of the average Albanian family’s healthcare spend, although if illegal betting is included, the figure could be 700 million euros.
The Albanian government is also concerned about the links between gambling and organised crime, and hope that the new rules will strike a blow in the war against the country’s many crime gangs. Some betting shops have already closed, though some betting companies have moved to Montenegro, Kosovo or Macedonia where they are likely to operate online.
Image sourced from CountryFlags.com.