Gambling in Albania, one of the poorest countries in Europe, has been cited as one of the key factors encouraging domestic violence and fueling poverty while lining the pockets of petty and corporate criminals in the country. The situation has gotten so bad that the country is now considering some rather extensive measures which include a nationwide resolution to break gambling addiction and thus curb the suffering that it has brought to so many families in the country. This measure will be through a nationwide gambling ban that will be imposed by the country’s government.
Set to go into effect on January 1, the ban is targeting the 4,300 gambling venues that have cropped up in nearly all the streets in a country which has a population of close to 2.8 million people. This puts the ratio of gambling facilities at about one shop to 670 people which is extremely high especially when compared to the ratios seen it neighboring Balkan states or the more developed Western European countries. This gambling ban will effectively outlaw online gambling and restrict casinos, some of which are located near schools, to licensed tourist resorts and five-star hotels.
Support for the Initiative
A significant number of residents have expressed support for the initiative citing such issues mental problems – according to a study that was carried out by the University of Tirana, at least one of every four gamblers have attempted or considered suicide at some point of their lives. The same study revealed that close to 70 percent of them have struggled with stress, depression and other psychological problems.
Other than the effects it has on individuals at personal levels, problem gambling in Albania has also been found to a major contributing factor to domestic violence, something that has tremendous negative effects on a number of families. There are several cases of gamblers finding themselves in debt due to gambling and ending up in prison for violent cases of domestic violence. In fact, there are lots of families that have been completely torn apart as a result of destructive gambling habits and addiction.
Will It Work?
Albania’s gaming industry has been criticized for leaching out money from families in the country where the average monthly salary is somewhere below $342. Reportedly, Albanians spend about $170 million legally on sports betting every year – this amounts to 70 percent of what an average family spends on healthcare. When illegal gambling is factored, the amount increases to a whopping $798 million and therefore the biggest battle will be controlling illegal gaming especially online.
Already, some betting firms have moved to Kosovo, Montenegro, and Macedonia where they already have subsidiaries and can operate online gaming services without much trouble. Naturally, this means that, in addition to the rehabilitation centers that it plans to establish, the country’s government will need to take their regulatory measures a step further to ensure everything works out in their favor.