Austria’s financial police, the Finanzpolizei, have reportedly confiscated over 660 gaming machines in 278 inspections carried out since January, raising concerns over illegal gaming activity, particularly in urban areas with more than half of the confiscated machines found in Vienna.
While illegal gambling has been significantly reduced in rural areas, police have noted a significant rise in large urban centres. The Finanzpolizei have issued more than €13 million in fines in Vienna alone, but has also seen a spike in illegal gambling activity in Linz, with recent raids confiscating 38 gaming machines in the region, including 20 from a restaurant that the police inspected seven times in as many weeks.
Austria’s Finance Minister Gernot Blümel praised authorities on the reduction in illegal gambling in rural areas: “I congratulate the colleagues from the financial police on these remarkable successes. Illegal gambling is now concentrated in the metropolitan areas and thanks to the excellent work of the financial police, it is no longer active across the country.”
Blümel also called for the creation of an independent gambling regulator, a move that will see regulatory responsibility taken away from the treasury.
This intervention took place after the Austrian gambling trade association called for an end to Casinos Austria’s monopoly following corruption allegations concerning its appointment of Peter Sidlo as shareholder Novomatic's CFO. Novomatic has since sold its business stake to Czech gaming giant Sazka Group.