Comptrollers target gambling machines

The Financial Administration has carried out the biggest operation ever, focused on illegal gambling.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo(Source: AP/TASR)

Five so-called quiz machines seized and 75 gaming machines sealed is the result of an operation carried out by the Financial Administration in late June, focusing on illegal gambling. Moreover, tax officers confiscated the accounting documents of 14 companies.

During the Diamant operation between June 28-29, 180 comptrollers and custom officers checked approximately 100 gambling facilities across Slovakia in what has been the biggest action aimed at revealing the circumvention of the law on gambling that came into effect at the beginning of this year.

“It wasn’t an easy action,” said Ľudovít Makó, head of the Financial Administration’s criminal department, as quoted in a press release.

First, the comptrollers had to visit the facilities and try the machines to ascertain whether their use could be deemed as gambling or not.

Read also:Gambling is again legal in Bratislava

“In some facilities the gambling machine was turned off during the investigation, while in the others there were missing internet connections and power supplies,” Makó added.

Customs officers subsequently sealed dozens of facilities, while others were secured for further analysis. The Financial Administration will continue with the inspections.

Quiz machines will be checked

Playing the quiz machines is also considered to be a form of gambling as the players need to answer a simple question, according to Imrecze. However, to prove that they are gambling machines the Financial Administration sent them to the Technical Testing Institute for examination.

If it is proven that the quiz machines were used for gambling, the Financial Administration will adopt further steps. The operators of the machines and the facilities where they are placed would be faced with high fines, the SITA newswire reported.

Moreover, there is a suspicion that the operators did not prevent people under the age of 18 or those drawing material need benefits from gambling.

Read also:Less gambling in Bratislava

In addition, the quiz machines often have servers situated outside Slovakia. The law on gambling, however, stipulates that the servers need to be located in Slovakia.

Currently, there are about 800 quiz machines. Most are registered in the Bratislava, Trnava and Žilina Regions, Makó said, as reported by SITA.

Accounting seized

As part of the operation, the Financial Administration confiscated the accounting books for 2017 and 2018 of four companies operating the quiz machines and the accounting books from 2018 of companies that run the facilities where the machines were located.

Tax officers will now check whether the documents correspond with the data from the servers of the quiz machines’ operators and whether they tried to evade paying VAT and corporate income taxes.

If the Financial Administration reveals any flaws, the operators would face criminal consequences, SITA reported.

More fines issued

The number of fines for gambling operators who violate the law, as well as their amount, increased in 2017 compared with the previous years.

Read also:Illegal gambling websites come into focus

A total of 210 fines amounting to €378,660 in total were imposed in 2017, which is 153 more than in 2016 and 200 more than the year before. As for the amount, the sum increased by €13,680 (or 3.75 percent) in 2017 compared with 2016, and by €245,460 (or 184 percent) compared with 2015, the TASR newswire reported.

“We welcome the fact that the state has the ambition to fight illegal gambling but we have to realise that it cannot erase the legal concerns,” said Dominika Lukáčová, spokesperson for the Association of Entertainment and Gambling, as quoted by TASR.

She continued, saying that the illegal market is a result of excessive regulation and prohibition, with the criminal groups one step ahead of the comptrollers. They can even erase the software used in the machines from a distance to avoid fines.

However, legal gambling operators in Slovakia have never used such practices, Lukáčová added.

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