With gambling addiction arrests on the rise at home and criticism directed at the gambling industry regulations from abroad, Austria may be pressured to start reconsidering its policies and procedures related to gambling.
Just last week police arrested a manager at a funeral enterprise in the Styrian town of Liezen. It turned out that the 50-year-old man had been skimming customer payments for 11 years to fund his gambling habits.
The damages are thought to stand at 22,500 Euros, which is of course small change for the industry and even for a gambler (it comes to a measly 170 Euro monthly “bonus”), but gambling related criminal cases are on the rise.
On the other hand, whether it is a small-time embezzler using his money to enjoy some Austrian online gambling companies, a burglar robbing homes to finance his poker losses – these cases may influence the public discussion about the impact of gambling in Austria, but do not pose the level of threat, which organized crime does.
And organized crime is indeed making money on online gambling – though it certainly does not wish to be featured in gambling news. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) called on Austria last week to take additional steps in countering cross-border corruption and money laundering, which essentially sustains the Italian Mafia south of the border.
While the Austrian gambling laws are strict and the industry is well-regulated for the most part, enforcement and monitoring is not the strongest feature of the system. Licensing procedures do not involve proper background checks according to recent criticism by the OECD.
Although several companies in the industry call Austria their home, OECD claims that the government has not taken adequate steps to check the people involved with the subsidiaries of these companies. The organization alleges that such lax approach to the issue has provided a potentially fertile ground for international corruption to thrive.
No specific company has been named in the report. Bwin, the best known Austrian online gambling company catering to players around the world, is not thought to have been implicated.