New bill to introduce strict gambling regulation

Photo: Barbora Kmentová

Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has unveiled details of a bill introducing strict regulation of gambling in the Czech Republic. The new rules would push slot machines away from regular pubs and bars and introduce betting limits. The ministry also plans to create a database of gamblers to prevent addicts or those in debt from gambling. The draft legislation should enter into force in January 2016.

Photo: Barbora Kmentová
With around 100,000 gambling addicts and an estimated 15 billion crowns in annual costs in health care, welfare and other areas, the Czech Republic has long been overdue in introducing strict gambling regulation.

Over the past several years, dozens of municipalities across the country have introduced their own directives banning or restricting gambling on their territories. But on Thursday, Finance Minister Andrej Babiš unveiled the details of a first comprehensive bill aimed at curbing gambling and minimizing its negative effects.

“The draft legislation addresses all negative impacts of gambling on the society which have been estimated at 15 billion crowns every year.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“But there is more – hundreds of suicides, broken-up families, and so on. The draft should enter into force in January 2016 which gives us enough time for a proper debate and I firmly believe the bill will be approved.”

Under the new rules, slot machines would only be allowed in specialized bars and casinos, and would be banned in regular pubs and bars. The ministry would like to establish a central monitoring system which would control all gambling operations in real time.

A database of gamblers should meanwhile prevent some high-risk groups from gambling, according to deputy finance minister Ondřej Závodský.

“We would also like to introduce principles of responsible gambling, establishing maximum hourly and monthly bet limits.

“On top of that, we want to prevent certain groups of people from gambling. These include gambling addicts undergoing treatment or those who owe money either to their families or to the state.”

Ondřej Závodský,  photo: Czech Television
The bill will require all gamblers as well as those who bet on sports results to register. The database will be linked to other registries, for instance that of welfare recipients.

The legislation also harmonizes Czech law with EU rules, allowing companies based outside the Czech Republic to offer online gambling to Czech clients.

The bill will now make rounds at other government ministries before it is discussed by the government and eventually reaches the lower house. If approved, it should come into effect in January 2016.