Czech Republic Legalizes Online Gambling

Published Thursday, March 26, 2009 -

The Finance Ministry of the Czech Republic has voted to allow regulated online betting in the Republic. The move was met with great support from local betting firms, but has led to a steep decline in business at their betting shops.

The decision gives Czech companies more leverage in the competition with international online betting firms, which have long had unregulated access to the Czech market.

Tipsport, which owns 1,020 shops in the Czech Republic, is feeling the pinch after only three months. Online gambling accounts for about 30 percent of Tipsport's business, said spokesperson Lubomír Ježek, who expects an even greater interest in online gambling in the future. The online gambling surge has led to the company to decide to close some of its outlets.

Ježek said, "We see the Internet as a new opportunity, rather than something to replace brick-and-mortar shops,"

Fortuna, which has as many as 650 shops in the Czech Republic, reported that web based wagering had grown considerably since the new legislation, accounting for 25 percent of total business and causing a 5 percent decline in business in their outlets. Like Tipsport, Fortuna, expects that Internet gambling will increase, resulting in the closure of some of Fortuna's less profitable outlets.

Tomáš Bahník, the Fortuna spokesperson, said, "We will optimize our branch offices system in the long term," "We will reduce the number of offices to work more effectively."

Ježek explained that Czechs enjoy betting on sports outcomes, mostly soccer, which accounts for 60 percent of Tipsport's business. Business in branches may be down, he said, but there is no sign that the gambling industry is losing its popularity.

The new legislation states online wagerers must register in a gaming outlet to verify age requirements. Tipsports spokesperson Ježek said, "According to the law, we need to have branches to register internet gamblers," "At the same time, we are attracting new customers, like professionals who don't have time to sit in gambling bars, and hopefully women, who don't like the masculine atmosphere of casinos."

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