Armenian bookies protest phasing out of betting industry
Employees of the betting and gambling industry staged a protest in the morning of May 29.
The activists blocked off Baghramyan Avenue, where the National Assembly is located in the very centre of Yerevan.
Hundreds of demonstrators protested against a bill to limit the activities of betting companies that was on the parliamentary agenda. They demanded that the law be repealed or postponed, as thousands of people may be left without work.
This episode began with an initiative to change the law “On lotteries”, developed to phase out the gambling industry in the country.
According to the bill, betting would be banned starting November 2020. The law has not even bypassed numerous slot machines, which are installed, in particular, at gas filling stations – these machines would have to be dismantled as soon as the law comes into force.
This is not the first protest organized by bookies in Armenia.
Earlier, demonstrators expressed their dissatisfaction at the government building. Then a representative of the Goodwin-Bet company stated that 400 people work for his company, and if the law enters into force, everyone will be left without work.
“Jobs are not being offered, but the available ones are closing,” complained the staff of the betting organizations.
Then the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan met with the protesters. He told them that during meetings with voters on the eve of the parliamentary elections, people demanded that he ban the activity of betting companies.
“People get paid, but they don’t get to bring the money home, they lose it. There are [bookmakers] at every turn. I received such complaints in every city, every village, in Yerevan”, Pashinyan told demonstrators.
“People have the opportunity to play online. The ban on the activities of betting centers can not change the consciousness of the player.”
How did the protest end?
The demonstrators demanded a meeting with Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, but he was unable to meet with them.
After hours of blocking the avenue in front of the National Assembly building, a group of activists held talks with Babken Tunyan, the head of the parliamentary commission on economic issues.
“Mirzoyan was busy and we made concessions after meeting with the head of the commission on economic issues. Tunyan and other deputies present at the meeting promised to hold additional hearings and take into account our proposals”, said Sarkis Mikaelyan, director of the Goodwin-Bet company, after the meeting.
The head of the Economic Affairs Committee of the National Assembly promised activists that betting centers would not be closed for the next year and a half.
“We decided to postpone the ban on the activities of betting centers, but the ban on slot machines will come into force immediately after the adoption of the bill. Now they want us to allow them to use automatic machines for some time. We promised that at the meeting of the commission in the period between the first and second reading of the bill we would discuss this proposal. We will see what will be possible to do”, said Babken Tunyan.
After this meeting, protesters unblocked the avenue in front of the parliament building and went home.