The recent decision in North Macedonia to pass a bill preventing casinos, gambling establishments, and betting shops from operating within a half-kilometer radius of elementary schools and high schools has received pushback from the sports betting sector. The new law aims to protect children by giving these establishments a one-year timeframe to close or relocate to areas at least half a kilometer away from schools.
However, the Association of Betting Joints warned President Stevo Pendarovski that around 98% of the country’s gaming establishments would have to shut down, resulting in the loss of approximately 10,000 jobs. The association urged the President not to sign the bill and expressed concerns about being “expelled from Macedonia,” forcing their employees to seek jobs in the same sector abroad.
The debate surrounding the issue has been ongoing, with gambling opponents seeking better protection for children and teenagers, while gambling establishments argue that they follow the laws and are important employers in the country. They also raised suspicions that the new legislation aims to put them out of business and pave the way for new players in the digital gambling world.
President Pendarovski hinted that he may not sign the law and criticized the fast-paced parliamentary procedure used to pass the bill. He expressed the need to review the contents before making a decision. Similar restrictions on gambling operators’ proximity to schools and other institutions have been seen in other countries like Romania.
Furthermore, a study from the University of Bristol revealed that there are more gambling venues than supermarkets in the country, highlighting the widespread presence of these establishments. The controversy has raised questions about the balance between protecting children from the negative effects of gambling while also considering the economic impact on the industry and the livelihood of employees.