While the national administration is working on developing the new Czech gambling laws, various municipalities are struggling to develop sensible local policies on casinos and gambling halls.
The dilemma is obvious in most cases. In order to gain extra revenues, towns must allow the operation of gambling establishments. This in turn may lead to a loss of electoral support. A similar loss, however, may also occur if there are insufficient funds in the local budget.
In other words: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Some councils opt for a selective “culling”, as is the case in Prague’s 10th district. Politicians there would like to reduce the number of gambling halls by more than half, from 129 to 61. The establishments singled out for termination are mostly those that are located in crime-infested areas, or operating in the vicinity of schools.
The district has also set a mandatory closing time of 10pm for these venues.
This is certainly a careful balancing act between various conflicting interests, which not all towns are willing to follow. In fact, approximately a hundred municipalities across the country have passed zero-gambling provisions so far.
Some, however, are beginning to feel the financial pressure. “It’s probably about a third of the roughly one hundred municipalities that have a standing prohibition order at this moment,” estimates Petr Vrzan, head of the industry association SPELOS.
Sometimes there are also other, special considerations in play. The capital’s 1st district is one of those no-gambling zones, but councilors are thinking about opening the area for casinos. In their case the discussion is motivated not mainly by the expected direct budgetary impact, but by using casinos as a vehicle to boost tourism.
Consequently, the council is looking at allowing 21 gambling establishments. “Casinos will be subject to the strictest conditions and are aimed primarily at tourists. It’s a way to support the tourism industry,” explains district councilor Jan Krejci.
Meanwhile, domestic gambling activity is steadily moving online, especially in those areas where brick-and-mortar establishments are banned. While some visit the legal online sportsbooks in Czech Republic, most people prefer foreign bookies or online casinos.
As new national law is likely to open the market for all sorts of foreign and Czech internet casino activity, this trend is only expected to intensify.