Czechs could authorize online gambling

The five biggest bookmakers in the Czech Republic could be about to receive permits from the Finance Ministry to offer online gambling following years of lobbying and promises to prevent minors from betting on their sites.

According to a report from Radio Praha, one of the firms thought to be in contention for a license is Fortuna Group, which operates land-based sportsbetting in the Czech Republic alongside lotteries, games and telephone betting services. It is also active in Poland, Croatia and Slovakia and sponsors the giant Sparta Prague football team.

“We are sad and bitter that foreign Internet betting companies are allowed to operate in the Czech Republic without any control,” Tomas Bahnik from Fortuna Group told Radio Praha just before Christmas. “There is no legal restriction. So, basically they operate in this country illegally. So we want to have the same opportunities as foreign companies.”

Bahnik stated that his firm is losing around several hundred million Euros a year because it is not allowed to offer its services online but may be able to go live with an Internet service from Monday. “Internet betting is officially allowed from January 5, so I hope we will be prepared and ready to start right from this date,” he said. “This is very strict and well monitored, in contrast with foreign Internet companies,” said Bahnik.

“Every person, including teenagers, can use Internet betting without control. Our main goal is to control this situation. If someone wants to bet through Fortuna on Internet, they must register in a bricks and mortar office and show their identification. Only then they are allowed to play.

“We don’t accept credit cards but only regular payment cards because we don’t support gambling and gamblers and we don’t want people to become addicted to Internet betting. That’s something foreign companies don’t do.”