Hungary’s government has proposed a law that would ban slot machines from arcades, pubs and cafés, restricting them to the country’s three casinos.
The government believes Hungarians, especially poor ones, spend too much on the games. State Secretary Janos Lazar justified the restriction on the grounds of national security risks related to the gambling industry, but did not provide details, according to news reports.
The number of slot machines in the country has fallen from around 25,000 to just 2,000 after last year’s five-fold increase in the monthly tax on each machine, from 100,000 forints (US$450) to 500,000 forints ($2,250).
Lazar said the ban would lower tax revenues by around 30 billion forints ($135 million), but the government plans to replace that by regulating and taxing internet gambling.
He said the ban was set to be approved by parliament and would be in force within a matter of weeks, meaning that no new machines will be allowed to begin operating, and existing machines will be removed.
The European Gaming and Amusement Federation, a Brussels-based trade group whose members include 23 national industry associations in 18 European countries, blasted the legislation as “extremely aggressive and anti-competitive.”
“The Hungarian government has completely blind-sided the industry and has left it no time to react,” the group said.
Information provided by MSZSZ, a trade association representing Hungary’s machine gaming operators, shows that up to 40,000 people directly or indirectly employed by the country’s gaming and amusement industries could lose their jobs. This comes on top of the 20,000 people that Euromat estimates have already lost their jobs as a result of the government’s decision last November to increase the gaming tax.
“The Hungarian Government has not only completely disregarded constitutional and E.U. laws, as well as the European Convention of Human Rights, but has clearly failed to understand the broader impact that its actions will have on society and the economy in Hungary and across Europe,” said Annette Kok, president of Euromat.
She said the group will challenge the shutdown under both E.U. and Hungarian national laws.