Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The government is arguing with the EU about games of chance

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Are gambling lobbies stronger than the state: Who loses because of the new law, Photo: Shutterstock

The government did not adopt the draft law on games of chance until October 31, although it committed to it in an agreement with the Ministry of Finance of Slovakia, which paid half a million euros for the work.

At the beginning of October, “Vijesti” sent questions to the Ministry of Finance, and then to the government’s Public Relations Service, but the answer did not arrive.

Therefore, it is unclear why the Government is arguing in front of its partners from the European Union, whether a gambling lobby is being protected from the modern and European law on this sensitive area, and whether the Government will have to return the money paid by the Ministry of Finance of Slovakia.

On December 17 last year, Minister of Finance Darko Radunović signed an agreement with his Slovakian colleague Peter Kažimir on the contribution, which envisages Slovakia’s financial support of one million euros for the improvement of the information system for the supervision of organizers of games of chance and strengthening the capacity of the Administration for Games of Chance.

The agreement foresees the obligation of the Montenegrin side to prepare a new law on games of chance and technical IT specifications for the monitoring of income from organizing games of chance by October 31, 2019 at the latest. Slovakia paid the first installment of half a million within 30 days after signing the agreement, and the remaining amount should be paid by January 30, 2020, only if Montenegro fulfills its part of the obligations – to improve regulations in the field of games of chance and provide quality online control of the organizer.

The Ministry of Finance did not even respond to the question of independent MP Aleksandar Damjanović from October 14, who asked at what stage the drafting of the new law on games of chance is in view of the agreement with Slovakia and when the draft law is expected to be determined and submitted to the Parliament.

According to the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, the Government and its ministries must submit answers to the MP within two weeks, which did not happen in this case, so Damjanović sent an emergency message yesterday through the General Secretariat of the Assembly.

For 12 years, the adoption of a new law on games of chance that would increase state revenues and reduce the risk of money laundering has been announced, but it has been delayed. The obligation to introduce online supervision of organizers has existed for 14 years, but it partially took effect only two years ago, with the exception of lotteries and casino games.

The new law should define better supervision of all organizers of games of chance, determine new rules and norms for lottery games as well as for the operation and supervision of casinos, define the issue of the operation of betting terminals in catering establishments, more precisely determine the conditions, method and control of organizing games on happiness over the Internet and other IT platforms, as well as the amount of concession fees.

Last year, the news that the Slovaks will pay for and supervise this work was welcomed as positive, and that it will not happen that some privileged organizers and lobbies influence the reform process.

Last year, Montenegro had 15 million euros in income from games of chance, and in seven months of this year 9,7 million.

After signing the agreement, Minister Radunović said that further development of the games of chance market is of great importance for Montenegro, as well as that improving the information system and strengthening the capacities of the Games of Chance Administration will increase state revenues.

Kažimir said that Slovakia wants to improve public finances in Montenegro in the regulation of games of chance.

“This agreement should help the progress of Montenegro in the field of games of chance with the aim of increasing income. This is a matter of trust. “Slovakia will support the technical support of the Administration next year,” Kažimir said at the time.

The government promised a European solution in March, then kept silent

The government expected to meet the requirements for the Slovaks even earlier, because at the session of January 31 this year, it adopted the work program for this year, where the adoption of the draft law on games of chance is scheduled for the first quarter, ie until March 31 of this year.

“This law will improve the system of organizing games of chance, through the creation of permanent and sustainable solutions in accordance with the best European practice, with the aim of promoting the principle of competition and generating additional income for the Budget of Montenegro”, it was stated in the work program of the Government as an explanation for the need to create of the law on games of chance.

What happened after the adoption of this program and why the Government changed its mind and why it violates its obligations is still not clear.

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