Kosovo Casino Murder-Robberies Prompt Decade-Long Gambling Ban in Balkan Country
Posted on: March 30, 2019, 02:25h.
Last updated on: March 30, 2019, 02:25h.
Violent murders of two casino workers in Kosovo — in separate robberies this month — has led the Balkan nation to stop most forms of gambling for the next 10 years.
The move was approved by the cabinet on Tuesday and by the parliament on Thursday — with only the lottery remaining in place.
A police officer was arrested as a suspect in one of killings, according to The Guardian, while information on other suspects was not immediately available.
It is total chaos, a total abuse and it is good that we are stopping this,” Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj told Reuters about the crime situation.
“We will not allow these venues to be arenas of crime that claim people’s lives,” Haradinaj additionally posted on Facebook.
The robberies led authorities to search dozens of gambling venues and more than 100 slot machines were seized in recent weeks, as officials found multiple illegal gaming operations.
The ban will lead to some 4,000 workers in the gambling sector losing their jobs, with one venue operator, Ruzhdi Kosumi, who owns 14 gambling shops, saying 40 of his workers will be let go.
“This is nonsense. We lost [two] people and now we are losing our jobs,” Kosumi told Reuters.
There were an estimated 470 gambling venues in Kosovo, and the government received some €20 million (US $22.5 million) a year via gambling taxes, according to The Guardian.
The ban comes as Kosovo — which declared independence from Serbia in 2008 — continues to struggle economically, with slightly less than a third of its approximately 1.8 million residents unemployed as of 2017, the most recent figures to be compiled.
Joining Albania in Gambling Ban
Some casinos relocated to Kosovo recently, after many forms of gambling were banned in neighboring Albania.
The Albanian ban was approved in October, and became effective this year, outlawing lucrative sports betting and prohibiting betting shops in cities. The lottery and televised bingo remain.
Until the ban, there were some approximately 4,300 betting shops in Albania in a nation of 2.1 million adults, Balkan Insight reported. Legal gaming had provided some 7,000 jobs in Albania, but illegal gambling makes up 80 percent of actual gambling taking place in the country, according to Albania Prime Minister Edi Rama.
Why Balkan Casinos Are Closing
“Countries are under pressure to control money laundering through casinos, but it is domestic realities in Albania and Kosovo that have contributed to these closures,” Louise Shelley, who is director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center and a University Professor at George Mason University, told Casino.org.
“Violence and organized crime have destabilized Albania and Kosovo and the recent casino violence has generated a strong government counter-response in Albania,” she added.
Shelley — who was a member of the Global Agenda Council on Illicit Trade and Organized Crime — of the World Economic Forum — and was co-chair of its Council on Organized Crime — noted casinos may generate tens of millions in revenues for Albania, “but the social costs seem to exceed the financial gains for the state.”
In 2017, legal games of chance — which includes casinos, betting shops, lotteries and other kinds of legal gambling — reported a profit of 16 billion Albanian leke (US $143.3 million), according to Prishtina Insight.
Murder in Albania
The Balkans are no stranger to murders. Albania, for instance, ranked 106th globally, (5 per 100,000 people for a recent year) when it comes to homicides, based on data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The US State Department reported in 2018 that “organized crime continues to remain a concern for most Albanians with a network of criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking, extortion, bribery, money laundering, prostitution, and human trafficking.”
Recent crime statistics indicate a decrease in numerous types of violent crimes, but when Albania was considering the ban, members of parliament reported getting “criminal threats,” Balkan Insight said.
Numbers for Kosovo crimes were not published by the UN.
In 2012, the State Department warned that in Kosovo, “Criminals often commit crimes while armed with handguns, as weapons are fairly easy to obtain.” There were also “organized crime groups” operating in the country.