Date: 08.03.2024

by Adam Dworak

Montenegro’s Gambling Sector Faces Turbulence with New Payment Restrictions

Montenegro’s recent legislative amendments to its gambling laws are stirring significant concern within the gambling industry, according to Jovana Klisić, a spokesperson for the Montenegro Bet trade association.

The changes, particularly the ban on various electronic payment methods for betting, signal a critical juncture for the sector.

Impact of Payment Restrictions

The amendment to Article 68f prohibits the use of ebanking and mobile payments for depositing into betting accounts, effectively limiting bettors to cash deposits in betting shops or card payments at in-shop terminals. This shift has ruffled feathers among gambling companies and bettors alike, sparking a petition against the amendments that garnered 25,000 signatures within five days, indicative of widespread disapproval.

Concerns Over Industry and Employment

Jovana Klisić warns of the dire consequences these restrictions could have on employment within the gambling sector, which directly and indirectly sustains nearly 2% of Montenegro’s workforce. “Any negative impact on this industry could have very harmful and far-reaching consequences,” Klisić cautioned, emphasizing the threat to job security and the broader economic stability of the country.

“The removal of ebanking and newsagents for deposits, despite their compliance and transparency, not only affects operational efficiency but also jeopardises jobs, echoing the detrimental effects on the broader economy of Montenegro.”

EU Legal Conflicts

The amendments also seem to be at odds with several EU legal provisions, a concerning aspect given Montenegro’s pro-EU stance and its candidacy for EU membership. Klisić outlined the contradictions with the EU’s Payment Services Directive, the 4 and 5AML Directives, and the Montenegro-EU Stabilisation and Association Agreement, suggesting that the new law may inadvertently hinder Montenegro’s EU alignment efforts.

Global Trends and Digital Payments

Klisić criticized the move away from digital payments as an “outlier” decision that contradicts global financial trends towards electronic transactions. This shift, she argues, not only isolates Montenegro from EU practices but also from the global move towards transparency and efficiency in financial transactions.

Montenegro Bet has taken proactive steps by submitting the petition against the amendments and initiating a constitutional review. The association is also engaging with international bodies to highlight the potential negative impacts of the law changes and their contradiction to EU directives.

Our Comment on the Article

Montenegro’s gambling law amendments present a complex challenge, balancing regulatory intentions against industry viability and EU alignment. The strong public and industry backlash underscores the need for a careful reconsideration of the amendments.

As Montenegro navigates its path towards EU membership, aligning its financial and regulatory frameworks with EU standards becomes crucial. This situation offers an opportunity for constructive dialogue between the government and the gambling sector, aiming for regulations that safeguard both public interest and economic stability. The resolution of this issue could serve as a precedent for how Montenegro approaches future legislation in its aspiration to join the EU.