North Macedonia Casino Offered Negative COVID-19 Tests to Lure Greek Gamblers

Posted on: January 7, 2022, 11:30h. 

Last updated on: January 7, 2022, 02:15h.

At least one casino in the Balkan state of North Macedonia is offering fake negative COVID-19 tests to lure gamblers across the border from Greece. That’s according to a report by journalist Christos Nikolaidis for Greece’s Open TV.

North Macedonia casino
Greek journalist Christos Nikolaidis presents his report for Open TV. He declined to name the casino at the center of the fake COVID test controversy.

Nikolaidis visited Dojran in southeast North Macedonia as part of an investigation into an explosion of COVID-19 cases in a small village on the Greek side of the border.

Villagers suspected the virus had been brought back by a number of residents who had made a trip to the casinos across the border.

The casinos of Dojran and nearby Gevgelija are a popular draw for Greek citizens. They have doubled down on their efforts to attract cross-border visitors during the pandemic.

Greek news site Voria reports the casinos are eager to recoup revenues lost during the lockdown. Because of the resurgence of the region, current visitation levels are around 20 percent lower than pre-pandemic levels.

According to Voria, around 900 people crossed the border from Greece to Northern Macedonia each day in the final days of 2021.

Enticements included lottery draws for cars and free COVID-19 tests to ease their Greek customers’ journey home. Greeks are free to travel, but their government requires them to present a negative COVID-19 test on their return.

Hidden Camera

But when Nikoladis visited an unnamed Dojran casino with a hidden camera, he found phony negative tests were also available, accompanied by fake COVID-19 certificates and passenger locator forms (PLF). The latter are needed to comply with track-and-trace requirements.

We went to the biggest casino in the area which is open 24/7. Unfortunately, [COVID] measures were not observed, and none of us was checked to see if we had taken test or was vaccinated,” Nikoladis said.

“Then we went to a counter where we paid and gave our IDs to prepare our documents,” he continued. “We took the casinos chips and started playing. After a while, an employee came and brought us not only the negative result of the fake rapid test, but also the PLF form, which is necessary in order for us to return to Greece.”

Criminal Act

According to Balkan Insight, the falsification of COVID-19 certificates is a criminal act, punishable by either a fine or up to three years prison.

The North Macedonia Interior Ministry said Wednesday it would investigate the claims in the report.

On Thursday, Republika reported local police raided a casino in the area, seizing documents. Authorities plan to press charges against three businesses involved, Republika said.