The Slovenia Times

Gaming act changes pass second reading in parliament


Ljubljana - The National Assembly approved at second reading on Wednesday the amendments to the gaming act, which aim to liberalise the gaming market in Slovenia by scrapping most curbs on casino ownership and employee licensing and allow five instead of just two lottery organisers. The final vote on the changes will be held in March.

While currently only two companies have concession for operating classic games of chance - Loterija Slovenije and Športna Loterija, the number could increase to five under new legislation.

"Increased competition is expected to bring about a positive changes, both in terms of public benefits and consumer protection," Maja Hostnik Kališek from the Finance Ministry said during the parliamentary debate on Wednesday.

She also believes that market liberalisation can provide for a quality of supply and divert players away from illegal providers to those that are concessionary and state-controlled.

MP Marko Pogačnik of the ruling Democrats (SDS) agreed, saying that "these changes could mean that many Slovenian gamblers who currently play abroad would return to Slovenia, which would increase the revenue from concession fees".

Under the new bill, the government would grant concessions for operating classic and special games of chance based on public tenders to be published three times a year.

While the coalition argued that more competition would bring more revenue to the budget, the opposition warned that the market was limited and that humanitarian and sporting organisations could receive less funds, as concession fees are now virtually their only source of income.

The parliamentary Finance Committee had decided that any shortfall in funding for these foundations would be compensated from the state budget, which Jože Lenart of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said meant "taking the taxpayers for fools".

MP Matjaž Nemec from the Social Democrats (SD) added that increasing the number of providers could lead to more aggressive advertising and risky products, which meant that more younger players could get caught up in the spiral of gambling addiction.

The centre-left opposition expressed various other concerns as well, including that the proposal would lead to a fire sale of the gaming company Hit and open the market to foreign competition.

The new legislation would see to an easing of ownership conditions for concessioners that operate special games of chance in casinos, and according to Nemec, that would create the basis for the privatisation of the Nova Gorica-based Hit Casino.

Employees from the gaming sector also said the changes put them in a very subordinated position, so they were seriously considering a strike. "No one supports this bill," said MP Primož Siter of the opposition Left, adding that it was not backed by the gaming unions, nor local communities, the National Council, or the majority of MPs.

MPs will take the final vote on the changes at a parliamentary session starting on 14 March.


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