Betting in Serbia

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Legalized gambling was first introduced in Serbia in 1964, when it was still part of Yugoslavia. At that time the first casino was established in Belgrade. In 1979, all casino-related activities came under government control, and gambling has remained legal here in spite of the many political changes that have occurred in the region since then.

In the 1990s, the six republics that made up Yugoslavia separated to form independent nations. Serbia and Montenegro formed a loose federation in 2003 that lasted until they split in 2006. Most recently, the state of Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, although its nationhood is still being contested.

Today, license permits for betting offices, gambling houses and gambling-machine clubs are issued by a division of the Ministry of Finance and Economy, which is known as the Games of Chance Administration (GCA). For regulatory purposes, all gambling entities are required to be connected to the GCA via a computer network. The GCA also oversees a national lottery known as “Narodna lutrija,” which includes a very popular form of TV Bingo that sells over two million tickets annually.

Today, there are 19 casinos operating in Serbia, 15 of which are slot clubs operated by the Aleksandar Company in the Belgrade area. Together they comprise 1,061 slot machines and employ over 200 trained croupiers and hosts.

Currently, only one casino exists outside the capital—the King Casino Prishtina in Prishtina, Kosovo-Metohija. It is open daily from 2pm to 6am, featuring 50 gaming machines and 17 table and poker games. As with all gaming establishments, patrons must be 18 years or older in order to wager.

Under Serbian law, betting is defined as “a game in which a participant bets on scores of individual or group sport competitions or a certain event during a sports competition (such as the number of goals scored).” Despite the popularity of sports betting in Serbia, a general lack of organization and regulation persists. Only a few bookmakers can be found in the country, and they run the majority of its high-street betting shops.

Serbia’s leading bookmaker is the Meridian Group, which has several shops in Belgrade and outlying areas. One of its subsidiaries, Meridian Gaming, has also created websites under the brands Meridianbet and Meridianslots, providing online betting and gambling services under the jurisdiction of the Lotteries and Gaming Authority in Malta since 2008.

To date, no laws prohibit internet gambling in Serbia. As a result, some 343 English-language race and sports betting sites accept play from Serbia, including expekt, bet365, unibet, ladbrokes, william hill, gamebookers and Party Bets, to name just a few.

There are also three sites other than Meridian that support sports betting in the Serbian language sites. Foremost among them is the betsson Sportsbook & Betting Exchange based in Malta, joined by the Italian gaming and sports betting site known as Star Lotto and the Austrian sportsbook called Top Win, which uses Digital Concepts software originally developed in German.

Regarding currency, the official currency of Serbia is the Dinar, but Serbia-facing websites operate primarily in Euros. Visa credit lists some 1,931 sites that accept players who have Serbian addresses, including seven sites supported in the Serbian language, such as the sportsbooks of expekt and bet365, plus the sports betting exchange at betfair.

By comparison, MasterCard offers 1,707 Serbian friendly sites in English and six venues providing support in the Serbian language. Among eWallets, Moneybookers claim 1,468 gaming sites in English that accept play from Serbia, while NETeller has 1,461.

Although the Serbian government relies on taxation of gambling activities as a revenue source, much of the local sports betting industry still remains underground, in the hands of unlicensed bookies. As a corrective action in May of 2011, countrywide raids involving over 500 police officers were conducted simultaneously at more than three hundred illegal gambling locations, resulting in 17 arrests.

The Chief Prosecutor of Organize Crime of Serbia, Mr. Miljko Radisavljević, indicated that the individuals who were caught were responsible for costing Serbia millions of Euros in unpaid gambling taxes. As it turned out, five of the 17 arrested suspects were senior gambling inspectors with the administration’s own Department of Gambling & Sports Betting. They had allegedly received payoffs to turn a blind eye to the illegal operations.