It will come into force in January, but the vending machines should disappear within three years as their license ends. Representatives of the opposition ODS and ANO criticized the form of the decree. According to them, it will mean a loss of income and may have the opposite effect than the intended reduction of gambling.
The basic principle of the decree is to allow so-called live play in urban areas that do not choose zero tolerance, and to ban technical games throughout the territory. Of the 57 city districts, 41 of them opted for a total ban on gambling, and several town halls unsuccessfully demanded a ban on selected companies. According to councilor Hana Marvanová (for STAN), this is not possible from the point of view of competition law.
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According to Marvan, the ban on slot machines leading to the disappearance of businesses that are registered as live casinos, but this is only rejected by deliberately unattractive games that no one plays, such as rounds of fortune or dice tables. According to the councilor majority, there are such companies out of 101 casinos that are now allowed in Prague.
According to Marvanová, the reason for the decree is, in addition to the harmfulness of technical games, also the fact that the Office for the Protection of Competition (ÚOHS) deals with operators’ complaints about a newer decree, which sets out a list of places where casinos may be. According to the councilor, the office has already ruled in the case of Ostrava that this is an infringement of competition and has imposed a fine.
The city districts of Prague 1, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18 and Zličín wanted to include in the decree a list of places for which the ban on technical games would not apply. Marvanová stated that she would consider it ideal to establish a list of companies, which was preserved only by real hotel-type casinos, but this goes against the opinion of the Office. According to the council exception, he does not exclude, but requires the establishment of objective criteria for their award. Marvan said she tried to meet the town hall grounds, but the companies suggested no objective criteria were met. “I cannot submit a decree that would be contrary to competition law,” the councilor summed up.
The form of the decree was criticized by the opposition, the discussion lasted four and a half hours. “Some of us think that it is poorly prepared and that the original intention, ie to reduce the number of casinos, is simply not there,” said the head of the ANO club, Patrik Nacher. Among the arguments presented by the representatives of ANO and ODS was that with the ban on slot machines, casinos will begin to be established just outside Prague or that operators will come up with ways to circumvent the ban.
Widespread permission for live games by opposition representatives will also deprive city districts and municipalities of the opportunity to control where casinos – without slot machines – are set up. They also criticized the fact that Marvanová did not submit a written statement to the Office. At the suggestion of Councilor Jan Chabr (TOP 09), the decree of the decree must be discussed with the Antimonopoly Office in January before it is issued and obtain its opinion, according to which it would still be possible to amend the decree.
City districts will lose hundreds of millions
There was also a discussion on the financial implications. The city received about 769.5 million crowns from the state from the gambling tax, of which about 422.3 million from technical games. The municipality distributes the amount of this among the city district according to the number of inhabitants, the rest is kept. The money must come from the law to support sports, culture, education and the social sphere. According to Marvanová, the municipality will compensate the city for the loss.
However, the city will actually lose money, which has provoked further criticism. Opposition members pointed to the current economic situation in connection with the coronavirus pandemic. According to Deputy Mayor for Finance Pavel Vyhnánek (Prague Sobě), however, outages will not occur immediately, but only in three years. At that time, according to him, the money should already replace the growing revenues of the municipality, or savings.