SBC News Croatia snap election sees gambling overhaul become a bargaining chip

Croatia snap election sees gambling overhaul become a bargaining chip

A pledge has been made by MOST, the ‘Sovereign Party of Croatia’, to overhaul the nation’s gambling laws by implementing a ban on advertising and introducing new protections to curb addiction.

MOST’s pledge carries significance as next week Croatia will hold a snap election on Wednesday, 17 April, due to the fallout of the coalition government led by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ).

Party leader, Nikola Grmoja, MOST’s candidate for President declared that the opposition needed to wake up and recognize “Croatia’s problem with gambling addiction that is not discussed within political circles”.

Grmoja noted “frightening statistics” of gambling trends in Croatia, as “40% of juveniles are gambling on a daily basis” and public health agencies report that “40,000 Croats are addicted to gambling, a figure impacting 200,000 families”.

Ahead of next week’s election, MOST published its ‘programme to fight gambling addiction’, pledging to implement a blanket ban on gambling advertising, by adopting measures taken in Italy and Poland.

“We will ban bookmakers from advertising; they will not even be allowed to sponsor sports clubs,” Grmoja proclaimed.

The overhaul will feature a revision of Croatia’s gambling laws to drastically reduce gambling machines in retail and leisure venues and to move bookmakers, arcades, and casinos away from the proximity of public institutions such as schools, universities, and hospitals.

Grmoja told the media that the twelve successive governments since Croatia’s independence in 1991 had failed to address the societal impacts of gambling, as “the state supports gambling, and the impression is created that it is something that is socially acceptable”.

Recognised as Croatia’s fifth biggest party, MOST’s chances of winning the election are limited. However, the party may become influential in the likely event of a new coalition government being formed.

Last month, Parliament was dissolved as opposition parties demanded a ‘snap election‘ due to corruption allegations against HDZ ministers over scandals related to government contracts.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković will bid for a third term in Croatia’s parliamentary election next week as polls indicate his conservative HDZ party will lose its majority.

Maintaining his premiership, Plenković will likely be forced to broker deals with right-leaning parties to form a new government, a scenario that may see MOST’s programme come into play.

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