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Czech casino and gambling scene faces new challenges

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Prague, Czech Republic – Whilst Las Vegas is often the synonymous place for casino activity, Monaco may come to mind first in Europe. This is because the microstate has one of the oldest and most prestigious casinos in the world, the Casino de Monte Carlo, as well as a handful of other prestigious establishments.

However, Statista data shows that the Czech Republic had 299 land-based casinos in 2017; 99 more than France, over double Great Britain, and around 6 times more than neighbour Poland. Given the 10.7 million population, this works out to around one establishment per 35,785 persons – the highest density of any European nation with a population over 100,000.

Although rarely described as such, the Czech Republic is one of the most active hubs of European casinos. However, new laws and growing competition from online have posed an existential threat to the local casino industry. As this Ignition Poker Review highlights, incentives and convenience are far more compelling to the average gambler in the online world. 

Czech brick and mortar casinos face new restrictions

For the past decade, tougher restrictions have been restricting casinos’ ability to operate. Since 2012, the Czech government has overseen a mass closure of casinos (which in their definition includes smaller shops of slot machines). 

In an interview with Radio.cz, former Finance Minister Alena Schillerová stated “I’m definitely very satisfied with how things are going. The Czech Republic has ceased to be a casino in the heart of Europe. Since January 2012, the number of casinos is down from 7,600 to roughly 1,800 – one quarter as many. So that’s a great result.”

Schillerová puts this trend down to the Gambling Law of 2017. Pubs that host single slot machines are also struggling to get re-licensed, though the quiz trivia machines remain a grey area that escapes the gambling clamp-down.

Impacts beyond policy

In 2019, it was reported that the “one-armed bandits” have been disappearing from Czech dive bars. However, there was another big trend that could be pointed to as the cause of the declining casino industry – it has simply been shifting to the online world.

Whilst the pandemic was a clear accelerator in this rise of online casinos with brick-and-mortar establishments closing, mobile phones quickly became the dominant device to gamble on around the world between 2015 and 2020.

So, whilst many of the so-called “one-armed bandits” may no longer be able to visit their local casino, some are simply pursuing their hobby from the comfort of their own homes instead. 

Furthermore, in 2017, the government made it possible for offshore operators to apply for a license, though this mostly impacted sport brokers, it is in contrast to their brick-and-mortar crackdown on gambling habits.

The Czech Republic is potentially retaining its “casino of Europe” status with the expanding online casino markets, with total revenues in 2019 reaching €1.36 billion for both land-based and online casinos.

Headed by Kafkadesk's chief-editor Jules Eisenchteter, our Prague office gathers over half a dozen reporters, editors and contributors, as well as our social media team. It covers everything Czech and Slovak-related, and oversees operations from our other Central European desks in Krakow and Budapest.