The history of gambling in Serbia takes us back all the way to the post-World War II period. During these tough times, gambling in Serbia was among the first industries that became regulated by law.
This activity has been legal ever since 1964 and the reason why it was regulated so early is that the government hopes that this activity will help stimulate the economy by bringing in tax money, employment, and many tourists.
Under the Law on Games of Chance, which was a law by Yugoslavia (Serbia was part of Yugoslavia in that period), a distinction between special games of chance and classical games of chance was made.
The first type was casino games that were played in casinos but were only available to foreign tourists. Even when the first casino was opened in Belgrade, the residents were not permitted to enter. After the shocking events in the early and late 90s, Serbia's economy was bruised and many of its sectors started to crumble.
Games of Chance Act
These were dark times for the country as gambling was also barely regulated and that is how underground facilities started thriving. However, all of that changed when the Games of Chance Act, which was based on previous legislation in Yugoslavia, was passed in 2004. With this act, the following gambling activities were legalized:
- Classical games of chance
- Special or other games
- Internet gambling games
- Prize competitions
Classical games of chance include lottery, bingo, scratchcards, and raffle. Special or other games include casino gambling and sports betting, and internet gambling games is basically online gambling, which means that this activity became legal in 2004.
But, one of the biggest problems with this act was that the market was controlled by the State Lottery. The New Act on Games of Chance which was brought in 2011, changed all of that.
Gambling nowadays in Serbia
Ever since the New Act on Games of Chance was brought in 2011, gambling in Serbia was revolutionized, and it became much easier for the government to control these activities. Nowadays, both online and land-based casinos are regulated well in the country and are in a steady phase of growth.
With the act, even foreign operators can apply for a license in Serbia. But, in order to obtain it, the operator needs to have a physical branch in the country, which is a regulation that can commonly be found in other European countries as well.
Not only that, but players are well-protected when they access online casinos. The new act also includes a clause that enables the government to block unlicensed casino sites. It is relieving to hear that the blocking is extremely successful and players know instantly whether they are at a licensed site when they access an online casino. If they are allowed to play, then the site is licensed and well-regulated. If they cannot gain access, then the site is unlicensed, and it is not safe for them to play games there.
Serbian Gambling Update in 2020
In 2020, the Act was amended even more and with this new amendment, the number of social responsibilities was taken into consideration and several other steps were taken to make sure that further liberalization can take place. Speaking of social responsibilities, the words casino, sazino, kasino, and kazino were banned from usage in any advertisements or promotions on social media. Minors cannot access online casino sites or gamble at land-based casinos. The legal age for gambling in Serbia is 18.
One of the best things that the new amendment in 2020 brought was a slight change in how the tax money from gambling is collected. With the new Act of 2020, the Red Cross of Serbia receives 40% of the government’s revenue made from gambling, which definitely deserves praise.