Finance Ministry aims to curb widespread gambling

Photo: Barbora Kmentová

The Czech Republic has been long regarded as Europe’s gambling heaven, but that may soon change. While Czech municipalities were recently given greater powers in regulating gambling on their premises, the Czech Ministry of Finance is now working on legislation that would seriously restrict the lottery business.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
The daily Hospodářské noviny on Tuesday published the details of a new draft law on gambling, prepared by the Finance Ministry, which introduces severe measures to curb gambling across the country. Among the newly proposed measures, the bill introduces a limit of one gambling bar per 1,000 inhabitants and only allows casinos in towns of 40,000 or more inhabitants.

The draft legislation would also ban gambling venues near schools, public offices, playgrounds and hospitals, as well as in historic urban reserves and shopping areas. Under the bill, the number of gambling bars in Prague, for instance, which currently exceed one thousand, should be reduced by half.

The draft bill also envisages creating an online database of gamblers that would be accessible to various authorities. Clients at gambling bars and casinos as well as on-line gamblers will be required to register in the database. The staff in the bars will have to check whether their clients are not welfare recipients. Non-stop venues will cease to exist under the new legislation, which introduces compulsory closing hours from 3 to 10 a.m.

The new legislation will also introduce a maximum amount that a person can win or lose on an hourly basis. Clients at gambling bars can bet CZK 20 an hour and lose a maximum of CZK 10,000. In casinos, clients can bet CZK 100 and lose up to CZK 50, 000.

One thing that is not being tackled by the new draft bill is the issue of taxes. Under the current legislation, the turnover of lottery firms is subject to a 20 percent tax. The firms are also required to pay 20,000 crowns for each gambling machine. Deputy Finance Minister Ondřej Závodský told the Hospodářské noviny daily that taxes will be the subject of a different bill that is currently being drafted.

According to the latest survey, there are currently some 140 thousand people addicted to gambling in the Czech Republic. The gambling business last year contributed more than 2,600 billion crowns to state coffers.