Petition on ban on gambling in Bratislava

Petition on ban on gambling in Bratislava

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Martin, COM_CCK_Slovakia, 09 październik 2018

The petition on ban on gambling in Bratislava was one of the most prominent communal topics addressed by national media in the last few years.

First, it needs to be said that the petition on banning gambling is different from other local petitions, since the petition itself is mentioned in a specific legal norm – The Act No. 171/2005 on Gambling Games. The law states, that a local council can pass an ordinance banning gambling games in the municipality solely in the case that at least 30% of the citizens of the municipality sign the petition expressing discontent with the fact that the gambling is disturbing public order in the municipality. In case of Bratislava and Košice, the quorum can be set lower (but not lower than 15% of the citizens) in the specific laws dealing with the municipal regime in these two cities (Act No. 377/1990 on the Capital of the Slovak Republic and Act No. 401/1990 on Košice City). In the amendment passed in connection with the then in progress signature-collection in the capital city in November 2016, the quorum in both cities was indeed set on the lowest possible limit.

Only if this quorum is met, the local council is eligible to make a decision in this matter and ban the gambling clubs, casinos etc. in the entire territory of the municipality. The council can also define the categories of buildings, in which the placement of the gambling club will be banned. The categories, as defined in the §38 of the said norm are:

  • hotels, motels and pensions
  • buildings for shops and services
  • buildings for culture and public entertainment
  • block of flats (the gambling club can be placed in the block of flats only if endorsed by the majority of the owners)

The petition on ban on gambling in Bratislava was one of the most prominent communal topics addressed by national media in the last few years.

The signature-collecting for the petition was intitiated in May 2015 by a joint iniciative of the mayors of 17 city districts of Bratislava and the mayor of Bratislava Ivo Nesrovnal, called Bratislava Against Gambling. The collection of the signatures was a long time effort and the petition with 136 139 signatures was filed more than year later, in June 2016. However, after the examination carried out by the municipal office in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic, it was ascertained that the number of valid signatures was „only“ 98 118. This was still much higher than the required 15%, since the number represented 27,82% adult citizens of Bratislava.

The petition led to the vote in the local council on the ordinance establishing a ban on gambling in Bratislava in February 2017. To the suprise of the city's leadership as well as the public, the vote was not succesful with only 24 out of 41 presented (and 45 in total) councillors voting for the total ban on gambling in Bratislava (3/5 was needed). This situation was that much more suprising, since all 45 councillors had signed the petition months before the vote. The main argument against the adoption of the ordinance was that the councillors did not have an option to vote on a strict regulation of gambling instead of a total prohibition. The dissatisfied councillors wanted to vote on the ban regarding every category of buildings separately, for example, they planned to retain the casinos in hotels.

Massive media outburst and continual referring to the tens of thousands of signatures in favor of the ban led to the second vote in the local council on March 2017. This time, the vote was succesful with 27 votes in favor of the ban. However, the story of the ban on gambling in Bratislava is still not over, because the Association of the Entertainment and Games, created by the entrepreneurs in the gambling industry, filed a protest, arguing that the council can not decide on the same matter for the second time, if there was not a second valid petition in place. In May 2017, the regional prosecutor's office decided that the ordinance had been passed unlawfully and should be revoked. Since the municipality refused to do so, the prosecutor filed a lawsuit suing the capital city for non-compliance with his protest and not revoking the disputed ordinance.

Since the licences for most of the gambling clubs, casinos, etc. in Bratislava will be still valid in the next few years, the fate of the gambling in Bratislava remains unresolved at the time. However, the petition has had a strong effect on the prominence and media coverage of the issue and due to the provision of the legislation on gambling, it was also a necessary precondidition of the council's decision.