On the occasion of pending amendments to the Gambling Law, the Assembly of North Macedonia on June 13 hosted a public debate gathering members of Parliamentary Committee on Finance, country’s MPs, representatives of NGOs, trade associations, regulators, gaming and betting operators and university professors. EOGL Secretary-general, Mr Zoran Puhač, was invited to the public debate as an independent expert.
According to the provisions of the recently proposed amendments, betting and gaming facilities could be no closer than 500 meters away from schools, universities, libraries, institutes or institutions with predominant function child care, whereas the distance certificate would be issued by local authorities.

The Law amendments however, have not acknowledged none of the obvious negative effects of such policy choice, especially in area of underage and black market gambling.

Mr Puhač emphasized the examples of best regulatory practices throughout EU, stating the absence of correlation between minimum distance and underage gambling, as the latter is already effectively tackled by imposing a total ban of entry and participation of minors in gaming facilities, as well as sanctioning of operators committing this type of infringement.

As it was also underlined, several jurisdictions already imposing this type of proximity restriction have generated counter-effects in terms of growing black market. In addition, as Mr Puhač reminded, the Republic of North Macedonia already has a quality regulatory framework in terms of ban of entry and participation of minors in betting and gaming offer.

Representatives of trade associations warned that, in case the subject amendments are passed through the Parliament, this would case the closure of all gaming venues and bring into question the future of more than 7.000 workplaces, whereas public income would see sharp decrease for at least 250 million euros, as this was the amount of direct and indirect operators’ budget contributions in 2018.

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