Betting operators and customers in the Slovakian capital city of Bratislava face an uncertain future after local politicians moved to ban gambling in the city.
City councillors reportedly voted to ban gambling last week, following the receipt of an anti-gambling petition. The ban on gambling is due to come into effect on 1 January, next year. According to the local newspaper, the Slovak Spectator, all but one of the council’s 40 members in favour of the gambling ban whilst the remaining councillor chose to abstain.
Bratislava may not be the last authority in Slovakia to go down this road. Other cities are said to be considering similar legislative changes, and there have been sporadic recent attempts to bring in a gambling ban. The city of Nitra has been pushing for such a ban since 2019, although those efforts have so far been unable to produce any concrete legislation.
Three years ago, there was an effective national ban on gambling in the country. This ran from May 2017 to December 2018, but it ultimately collapsed due to a legal challenge. The Regional Prosecution Services declared that the law was not in compliance with Slovakian law, and this opinion was backed up by the Bratislava Regional Court.
The new law will not mean that Bratislava’s casinos and gambling venues will face immediate closure. Instead, the new rules allow existing gaming licenses to expire. Most of these are due to run out in 2023 and 2024. Matus Vallo, the Mayor of Bratislava, has said that he is hopeful that the new law will bring significant positive changes to the capital, but gambling venue and casino operators have said that they do not believe the legislation will have any effect. One casino operator, Robert Vystavil, was quoted in a local newspaper arguing that the current rules are adequate, and that by bringing in complete bans, nothing will be solved. He also alleged that the government was doing little to tackle the problem of illegal gambling in Slovakia.
Gambling has a long history in Slovakia. Horse racing was a popular vehicle for gambling during the 19th century, while a local land-based casino industry began to emerge in the early 1990s. The gambling industry also generates significant revenue for a number of authorities in the country, including in Bratislava. According to official figures, by the end of last year, the city had 89 gambling venues, with six casinos and two bingo halls. Data on revenue showed that they earned €2.76 million.
The gambling sector in the country is officially overseen by the Interior Ministry, but individual cities have the powers to introduce regulations in this area.