Czech municipalities want to limit gambling – minister

Prague- Some 80 percent of Czech municipalities would like to limit gambling on their territory, Dzamila Stehlikova, minister for human rights and minorities, told journalists today, referring to a survey she ordered.

Over 85 percent of the municipalities said the negative effects of gambling, such as crime, were more serious than the financial effects of casinos to their budgets, the survey conducted on some 100 municipalities showed.

A working group recommended that the new law on gambling, currently drafted by the Finance Ministry, limit gambling to special premises „to protect adolescents and people from socially excluded communities from the offer that is everywhere, in cafes, restaurants, hotels, at train stations and many other places,“ Stehlikova said.

She said many of the poor spend their welfare benefits in casinos.

The group also agreed that a fund should be established to subsidise campaigns against gambling.

Prevention campaigns should focus mainly on children, youths and socially excluded communities, but also women and senior citizens.

Stehlikova said she planned to push through a ban on gambling via the Internet and mobile phones and on establishing gambling rooms near schools, social and medical facilities and some other locations like ghettoes.

The Finance Ministry is to submit the bill to the government by the end of the year.

The Senate, the upper house of parliament, is now discussing an amendment to the law on gambling that would give municipalities more controls over gambling rooms and casinos and ban Internet and phone gambling.

However, some senators criticise the amendment, saying there is no point in amending the old law when a new one is to replace it in near future.

According to Finance Ministry data, Czechs spent on lottery and betting games a record 108 billion crowns last year, an average of 12,900 crowns per citizen above 18.

The number of classical gambling machines in the country increased by 12 percent, while that of video gambling machines by 50 percent, the ministry statistics show.

Experts say up to 300,000 people may have problems with gambling in the 10-million country. The number of those addicted to gambling is estimated at 100,000.

Stehlikova said the treatment of a gambler might cost 100,000 to 200,000 crowns.