Austria-Gambling Law : Stelzer pushes for novella, Fuchs sees “no good style
Published by Jack Black
June 10, 2019 7:23 am
LINZ/WIEN: Fight against illegal gambling: The amendment was announced for autumn 2018, but is still not available. State Finance Secretary Fuchs (FP) now promises it for “this year”.
Gambling law: Stelzer pushes for amendment, Fuchs sees “no good style”
Illegal gaming machines are regularly confiscated and scrapped. It helps little. They are usually immediately replaced by new ones.
Illegal demonstrations in front of the house of a lawyer from a district authority, confiscated vending machines that are replaced within hours, and illegal venues that simply start over with another straw man as operator after an official closure: OÖN readers know the partly brutal methods and feints of the gambling mafia in Upper Austria.
Already in November of the previous year Upper Austria’s provincial governor Thomas Stelzer (VP) demanded a rapid change of the toothless gambling law from the federation in the OÖNachrichten-Gespräch, in order to be able to stop the machinations better.
Although Finance State Secretary Hubert Fuchs (FP) had promised such a change for autumn 2018, not even a draft has yet been submitted.
In the current issue of the news magazine “profil” as well as in comparison to the OÖNachrichten, Stelzer is now once again adding to the list. “It’s going too slowly for me,” he says. “With the current legal situation the operators are always one step ahead of us. It appeals therefore again urgently to change the intolerable and untenable legal situation . Apparently, however, “the connection to the problem is not as strong in the federal government as it is here in Upper Austria”.
Upper Austria – and here in particular Wels – is considered one of the hotspots of illegal gambling alongside Vienna. Security Councillor Elmar Podgorschek (FP) promoted the fight against illegal gambling as one of his focal points. In 2017 more than a thousand slot machines were confiscated in 300 raids and more than 50 venues were closed. But it is a fight against windmills, says Gerald Sakoparnig of the State Criminal Police Office. “We pick up the machines from the restaurant on Monday, and one day later new ones are delivered from a central warehouse.
Fuchs wants reversal of burden of proof
During the ORF press session yesterday, the responsible State Secretary for Finance, Hubert Fuchs (FP), announced that the gambling amendment would “definitely come in 2019”. Among other things, a reversal of the burden of proof is planned, explained Fuchs. “The gaming operator must prove that it is not engaged in illegal gambling”. Fuchs called the fact that Upper Austria’s provincial governor accused him of Stelzer’s default “no good style”.
For operators of illegal automats the business pays off despite the seizures: A new automat costs approximately 2000 euro, plays according to estimates however up to 10,000 euro per month at profit. Also high administrative penalties do not deter the illegal play operators. Administrative penalties are delayed by the courts of appeal – and if they are legally binding, they are simply not paid.
In February, for example, a suspected member of the gambling mafia went online with the Welser police, who according to “profil” had accumulated open administrative penalties amounting to 870,000 euros. The man is now serving a substitute custodial sentence. Of course, he will never pay the 870,000 euros that way: prison sentences of more than six weeks are not permitted for administrative offences – and there must be six months between two prison sentences.
The little game of chance
Small gambling (mainly involving slot machines outside casinos) was banned in Upper Austria until 2011. “But this was ignored by the authorities for a long time,” say criminologists. “During this time, large illegal structures have grown.
In 2011, small gambling was legalized. However, a licence is needed to set up a machine. In Upper Austria about 1200 machines are legally installed. According to estimates, there are as many illegal vending machines as there are legal ones. The licence is associated with measures to protect players. Licences in Upper Austria are held by Admiral Casinos, Excellent Entertainment and PA Entertainment.
In four federal states (Vorarlberg, Salzburg, Tyrol, Vienna) the small gambling is completely forbidden.