To protest legislation that would put a 25% tax on all profit made on gambling, over 96% of bricks-and-mortar bookmakers in Romania closed up shop on June 11, the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and have yet to reopen. Dan Matei Agathon, head of the Alliance of Employers (ACPR) union, stated that the protest “aims to draw the government’s attention to (the fact that) the government’s overcharging can lead to unemployment and encouragement of illegal betting.”
Romania is home to 1,505 registered bookmakers and 1,455 are protesting the new draft law. In the past, all winnings made from gambling were taxed but with the first 600 lei (about $177) or so exempt from taxation. Under the auspices of the extant Romanian gambling laws, the government had been drawing 4.2 million lei ($1.24 million) per month in taxes.
Supporters of the draft law claim that this new taxation could add over $3.72 million in revenue in the first six months alone, but protesting bookmakers argue that passage of the bill would result in thousands of jobs lost and fear that their business will be lost to online gambling. An impact study undertaken by undertaken by an ACPR group showed that implementation of a similar measure in 2005 reduced the average bookmaker’s earnings by 47.5% and the number of bookmakers by 30%.
The protest thus far seems to be bearing out Romanian bookmakers’ fears precisely, which makes the action seem slightly counterproductive. Online bets on sports in Romania have nearly doubled since the World Cup began and popular sentiment is well summarized by a blogger at Romanian-language website Jurnal de Pariu:
“This morning … I went to place a bet. But as I opened the door, surprise! A sign said ‘CLOSED’ and (a note) mentioned something about their strike. I didn’t get angry, didn’t kick down the door. I just went home and placed my bets while sitting in an armchair.”