Hradec Kralove has become the latest among the Czech municipalities to use their constitutionally approved powers in setting local gambling regulations.
A recent decision by the country’s Constitutional Court that stopped the government from licensing slot parlor operators against the will of local councils caused not only a move towards the creation of completely new Czech gambling laws, but also forced both operators and city councils to re-evaluate their strategies.
Representatives in this northern town of 100,000 inhabitants did just that, when they carefully reformulated the rules governing local slot parlor activity, compiling an exact list of authorized locations.
The changes mean that gambling halls must leave the town’s historic city center and some other residential and commercial areas where their presence was deemed problematic. Opening hours have also been set, with a mandatory closing between 3am and 9am. Moreover, new establishments can open only if the majority of councilors allow it.
Mayor Zdenek Fink was quick to point out that the councilors were not trying to eliminate gambling in Hradec Kralove. “We can just look at [the town of] Decin that banned gambling six months ago and now allowed it again, because the town council found out that they lacked those 19 million crowns in their budget,” said the mayor.
He then went on to share his opinion about the futility of prohibitions. “Personally, I support the idea to let everyone be in charge of their own lives, with only a few regulations. If anyone wants to play, let them play. If we ban it, they will play illegally, which will lead to more crime than there is today around the gambling halls,” opined Fink.
Furthermore, the central government is considering creating the framework for licensing international operators to set up legal online casinos in the Czech Republic, broadening the players’ options and diverting revenues away from smaller gambling arcades.
Not all councilors agreed with the new “zoning” rules, however. Opposition representative Adam Zaruba was among those who voted against the proposal.
“We did not like how it was arranged based on exact addresses, simply [saying] this one can, this one can’t. It didn’t seem very transparent to us, and we would have preferred more objective criteria,” said Zaruba.
Mayor Fink rejects the criticism. “We had a group of people representing all the clubs, we meet for over three months to discuss the proposal. Everyone had a chance to have their say, but they were silent at the meetings and now they try to circumvent it.”