June 22, 2010

Romanian bookies: all bets are off!

Thousands of bookies in Romania have suspended activity to protest a government draft law imposing a 25% tax on all gambling gains. The move is the second in a double blow to Romanian football lovers -- the national team didn't qualify for the World Cup.

Out of the country's 1,455 registered bookmakers, 1,400 are participating in the protest. They hope public pressure will force the government to drop the tax.

If the measure is passed, it could add more than 3m euros to state revenues in the next six months. The bookmakers, though, argue that thousands of jobs in the sector will be lost and people will switch to online gambling or illegal betting.

The blogosphere has joined the debate. "It seems normal to me to pay more. Just as everybody shows solidarity, willy-nilly, during the economic crisis, gambling earnings should be submitted to the same rules," says Partizanu on Gabriel Dima's blog.

"It's a big hoax here! The bookmakers used to do things in such a way that most of the earnings were under [150 euros] so that they avoided taxation. The state realised that in the meantime. So it is normal the bookmakers are now at a pinch because they stand to lose the dough," Sorin says on the forum of the Evenimentul Zilei daily.

"Another Romanian weirdness! The online bookmakers are seated abroad and thus the Romanian state loses its tax source because gamblers will resort to the online betting, as I will also do," Gusti added on the same forum.

With the bookies closed, the internet is the only option. "This morning, after I left the dentist, I went in the neighbourhood to place a bet. But as I opened the door, surprise, a sign said 'closed' and mentioned something about their strike. I didn't get angry, didn't kick the door, just went home and placed my bets while sitting in an armchair," says Florin M, who runs a betting blog -- Jurnal de Pariu (The Betting Diary).

Dante looks beyond the protest. "Let's get serious now! Don't let yourselves be deceived! [Bookies] are not fighting for us, but for themselves, because they are aware that because of the taxes people will migrate online and that scares them the most."

"I wonder what the logic behind this draft law is," Ronin asks on the same blog. "If the gambling business is going well, then money goes to the state budget. If they up the taxes, the bookmakers decrease their income and so happens to the contributions to the crippled budget," he argues.

"If a better gets less money than he invested, after paying 25% to the state, will he bet again? No, he won't, because he will have no financial motivation."

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