The recent passing of a bill in North Macedonia aiming to prevent the operation of casinos, gambling establishments, and betting shops within half a kilometer of elementary and high schools has sparked criticism from the sports betting sector. The law, designed to offer increased protection to children, would allow these businesses a one-year grace period to close or relocate to comply with the regulations.
The Association of Betting Joints sent an open letter to President Stevo Pendarovski, expressing concerns that 98% of the country’s gaming establishments would have to shut down as a result of the new restriction. They appealed to the President not to sign the bill, emphasizing the potential loss of 10,000 jobs and urging him to be a leader for all citizens.
The debate around this issue has been ongoing, with opponents of gambling arguing for better protection for children and teenagers, as well as for adults who may be at risk of addiction. However, gambling establishments have pushed back, highlighting their role as important employers in the country and questioning the true motives behind the bill.
President Pendarovski hinted that he may not sign the law, criticizing the fast-tracked process through which it was introduced to parliament. He expressed a need to carefully review the contents of the legislation before making a decision.
Similar measures have been proposed in other countries, such as Romania, where gambling operators were also targeted with restrictions on their proximity to schools, religious sites, and cultural institutions. Additionally, a study from the University of Bristol revealed an abundance of gambling venues compared to supermarkets in the country.
The controversy around this issue reflects the complex balance between economic interests, public health concerns, and the protection of vulnerable populations. It remains to be seen how North Macedonia will navigate these competing priorities in the regulation of its gambling industry.