Disputed Gambling Act Goes to European Commission
The recent controversial legislative revision of finance minister Ivan Miklos that among other things gives tax office clerks the power to decide which gambling websites can be viewed in Slovakia is being presented to the European Commission and all other Member States for their comments.
According to EU regulations, legislative revisions that are not part of common EU harmonised legislation are subject to this notification procedure. The revision process lasts at least three months, after which the European Commission will examine any comments raised about the legislation and its impact.
The idea is to prevent people in Slovakia playing on online betting sites that don’t have a licence or levy taxes in the country, but it has raised questions about internet censorship and people’s right to freedom of choice and information exchange on the internet. The speculative piece of legislation has also encountered opposition due to the technical demands of enforcing the law and the excessive fines that can be imposed.
The revision also raises the level of taxes for gambling operations. Just now lottery companies get hit for 17% of the stakes, but this will increase to 18% in September. Casino operators currently pay 24% of their receipts to the state budget (plus 3% more to local government), but this will be hiked up to 26% thanks to the new law. The flat rate tax of EUR 400 p.a. that is slapped on slot machines will soar to a massive EUR 1,900 from the beginning of next year.
The law also clamps down on smoking and drinking in betting and gambling shops, literally banning their sale or consumption. This could lead to the emergence of ‘secret’ venues where gamblers can enjoy a drink or a smoke along with their other vice.