Czech Government drafts new gambling laws

The future environment for gambling in the Czech Republic is none too bright, it appears. The Czech news agency CTK reports that gambling in the Republic is under the spotlight as politicians and Finance Ministry civil servants draft new laws to better protect the public, the underaged and the vulnerable as well as keeping criminal involvement at bay.

This week the Czech Ethnic Minorities and Human Rights Minister Dzamila Stehlikova, who is involved in the drafting process, told journalists that all gambling should be governed by national law and not by decrees issued by individual municipalities.

"At present it is possible to ban the location of gambling rooms near schools, social and medical facilities by decree, but according to our proposal a special law should ban the location," Stehlikova said.

CTK reports that a working group drafting the bill has recommended that the new law on gambling limit the pastime to special premises to protect adolescents and people from socially excluded communities, and from marketing offers that are everywhere; in cafes, restaurants, hotels, at train stations and many other places. The group hopes to submit its draft to the government by end 2008.

Internet and mobile gambling are targets for a specific ban, according to CTK, which reports that Stehlikova plans also to push through a ban and ensure that the number of gambling machines at bars and restaurants be radically reduced. Fines of up to 50 000 crowns are envisaged for violations of the regulations, and a special inspection office would oversee compliance with the new laws.

Stehlikova's office carried out a recent survey of 100 municipalities, and reported that 80 percent of Czech municipalities would like to limit gambling within their areas of authority. Over 85 percent of the municipalities said the negative effects of gambling, such as crime, overwhelmed the financial benefits casinos brought to their budgets.

Current legislation only allows the municipalities to regulate standard gambling houses on their territory and not video gambling machines, whose number is growing. And the new law will address video gambling, Stehlikova said.

CTK reports that Finance Ministry data shows that Czechs spent on 108 billion crowns on lottery and betting games last year, an average of 12 900 crowns per citizen above age 18. The number of classical gambling machines in the country increased by 12 percent, and video gambling machines by 50 percent.

Estimates are that the Republic, which has a population of 10 million, could have up to 100 000 pathological gamblers, with treatment costing around 100 000 (US$5845) to 200 000 (US$ 11 690) crowns.

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