STA, March 7, 2018 – The parliamentary Finance and Monetary Policy Committee has endorsed a coalition MP-sponsored bill seeking to liberalise the sports betting market despite opposition from the government, the upper chamber of parliament and sports betting company Športna Loterija.
The current gaming act restricts conventional games of chance, including bets, to two providers - the national lottery operator Loterija Slovenije and Športna Loterija for sports betting.
Branko Zorman, an MP for the senior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), is proposing opening the market to foreign providers, which he says are already present in the Slovenian market, although they do not have a concession here and do not pay taxes here.
He argues that the monopoly position of Športna Loterija is only "artificial", because Slovenian residents place bets mostly with foreign providers. In this way taxes from the bets are not collected in the Slovenian tax system, and consumers do not enjoy proper safeguards.
The providers would need to obtain a licence and would also pay licence fees, which would in turn generate more funds for sports and for disability and humanitarian organisations, while limiting betting by Slovenian citizens with providers abroad.
The government does not support the proposal, arguing that it does not address alignment with the EU law comprehensively, does not lift restrictions capping private ownership in gaming operators and does not tackle red tape.
Based on remarks from the parliament's legal office, Zorman has drawn up amendments, which the committee endorsed on Tuesday along with the bill with 12 votes in favour and four against.
Most committee members spoke out against monopoly, accusing the Finance Ministry it had left changes in the field on the back burner.
Finance Ministry State Secretary Gorazd Renčelj noted that the ministry had drawn up a proposal to comprehensively tackle the field in 2016 but there was no political will to pass it.
Športna Loterija chairman Edvard Kolar said that the Zorman-sponsored bill would not bring improvements and was not addressing problems such as illegal betting, harmful advertising, scams, addiction, risky betting products and risk of result rigging.
Unaffiliated MP Andrej Čuš commented that Zorman had "stirred up a hornet's nest" and Jani Möderndorfer from the SMC added: "Every time anyone has undertaken to reform the area, they got their fingers burnt." He said that "sports would get much more when this monopoly is gone".
Marko Pogačnik from the opposition Democrats (SDS) said he was against monopolies, arguing that such a bill should have been sponsored by the Finance Ministry.