Albania Says No More, AML Now’s The Score: Happy Daze In The Kingdom Of Zog
Albania? Say no more. The controversial Balkan nation has extremes of reputation, both as the birthplace of Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and home of eastern Europe’s most deadly people-trafficking and drugs mafia.
For the past five-years this formerly hard-line, isolationist Communist country, notorious for its blood feuds, has banned all forms of gambling (except government-run casinos) while legislators “reviewed” a draft law that would lead to the legalisation of iGaming and sports betting.
It was a vain attempt to deracinate the strong influence that organised crime still holds over the country and its institutions.
Albania’s charismatic and progressive Prime Minister Edi Rama has now signalled as much by announcing that the proposed gambling bill is back in contention.
Under the aegis of Albania’s Ministry of Finance and Economy, the revived gambling Draft Law aims to establish a regulated online gambling marketplace – with heavy-duty anti-money laundering and pro-customer compliance safeguards.
In what can only be described as a unique and potentially ground-breaking AML solution, the ministry is recommending that operators can only accept digital payments, via authorised agents.
All players, furthermore, must be registered and their personal data kept on file for a minimum of three years.
These “authorised” agents, propose the ministry, must be of the ilk of financial agents such as digital money senders Western Union, et al.
Such limitations, it is believed, will seriously reduce the jeopardy of money laundering breaches.
In what may prove to be more problematic, the government’s definition of authorised financial agents may also include local banks and financial institutions licensed by the national Bank of Albania.
Licensed gambling operators, meanwhile, must guarantee winnings and keep a minimum of €1.5 million in a designated bank account (£1.32m/US$1.65m), confirms an Albanian government spokesperson.
Putative gambling operators, who will pay 15 percent corporate income tax on earnings, which will fund social and welfare programmes in the nation, will be subject to forensic review to ensure that neither management nor stakeholders have “any criminal convictions or be in a judicial process for criminal offences,” stressed the government source.
Before the 2018 gambling ban was imposed this small Balkan nation of only 2.8 million people had an astonishing 4,700 betting shops.
With no limit on the number of licences that can be issued–or the number of accounts that can be opened–it would appear that happy days, if not Happy Daze, will soon be here again for the one-time Kingdom of Zog.