Mobile Banking Banned in Controversial Montenegro Betting Law

Montenegro’s Ministry of Finance has recently made waves by excluding modern payment platforms like Apple Pay, PayPal, and various online banking services from its gambling industry. This unexpected move has sparked concern among the European betting and iGaming communities, as it seems to defy the European Union’s regulatory framework, which Montenegro is expected to adhere to as a candidate country.

Contradictions Amidst EU Aspirations

Montenegro’s amendment to its gambling law, particularly Article 68f, has raised eyebrows for its preference for cash and in-person transactions in an era dominated by digital payments. The law restricts electronic payment options for betting, forcing bettors to visit physical locations to fund their accounts—a move seen as out of step with current digital trends.

The ministry’s stance appears contradictory, especially considering its aspirations for EU membership and the push for digital integration. The European Commission had previously called on Montenegro to bolster anti-money laundering measures, but the new law seems to take a step back, potentially distancing Montenegro from EU norms and the broader financial sector’s direction.

The amendments are seen as a breach of EU Acquis, particularly Article 68f, clashing with essential EU legal frameworks like the TFEU and Payment Services Directive, which promote an integrated market for electronic payments, and the EU 4 and 5AML Directives, which identify cash transactions as high-risk for money laundering.

The situation has escalated to the point where legal action is on the horizon. Several operators, including those from the U.S., are gearing up for lawsuits, alleging unfair market exclusion and preparing to take their cases to the International Court for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

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Industry’s Swift Reaction

The industry’s reaction has been swift and critical. A petition against the amendments garnered 25,000 signatures in just five days, signaling widespread disapproval and concern over potential job losses and economic fallout. Montenegro Bet, a key industry association, has challenged the constitutionality of the changes and sought international support to highlight the detrimental effects of the new law and its inconsistency with EU directives.

A Call for Immediate Action?

By limiting electronic payments, Montenegro is bucking international trends towards electronic transactions, championed by organizations like Moneyval and the FATF for their transparency and efficiency. This stance risks isolating Montenegro from EU practices, contradicting global financial movements, and potentially heightening money laundering risks while shaking investor confidence.

The exclusion of secure and advanced online payment methods in favor of cash transactions is a concerning development that calls for immediate attention and action from both national and international authorities. Montenegro’s approach stands out as a defiance of global trends and AML standards, prompting the question: what comes next?

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