By Heini Järvinen

Macedonia’s government has announced plans to block access to foreign gambling sites in an effort to prevent an outflow of capital. The ban will occur at some point in March and follows a change in the Law of Games and Chance adopted on the 28 December 2013. Far from banning gambling outright – the Macedonian government has teamed up with Austrian gambling company ‘Casinos Austria’ who have invested 6 million Euros to launch a new national online operation.

News site BalkanInsight reports that Government spokesperson Aleksandar Gjorgiev assured attendees of a media conference that efforts to “disable internet gambling and betting on world websites for players at home” were “based on the best world practices”. The government’s actions have, however, raised concerns of censorship. One representative of the Macedonian media called the proposal “a precedent done only by countries like China or North Korea”.

The Macedonian government reports that the site’s revenue will go towards national infrastructure and state services.

According to PokerNews, the European Commission has taken note and may raise concerns over a possible conflict with European treaties on the free movement of services. Macedonia has been a candidate for accession to the European Union since 2005. However, due to similar measures being taken in existing EU Member States (which have been consistently shown not to achieve their intended goal), it seems unlikely that the European Commission is in a position to take decisive steps to overturn this policy.

Macedonian Government to Introduce Internet Filtering (18.03.2014)
https://globalvoicesonline.org/2014/03/18/macedonian-government-to-introduce-internet-filtering/

Macedonia to block foreign sites (27.01.2014)
http://www.igamingplayer.com/issue/march-2014/article/macedonia-to-block-foreign-sites

Macedonia Unveils Plans for Online Gambling Monopoly (23.01.2014)
http://www.pokernews.com/news/2014/01/macedonia-unveils-plans-for-online-gambling-monopoly-17328.htm

Macedonia gambling ban raises censorship fears (20.01.2014)
http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/macedonia-gambling-ban-sparks-censorship-fears

(Contribution by Andrew Walsh – EDRi intern)