In the past ten years the gambling market in Croatia has been gradually liberalised as Croatia has slowly fallen in line with the European Union’s approach to gambling since their admittance as a member state to the organisation in 2013.
The monopoly formerly enjoyed by the Croatian Lottery (Hrvatska lutrija) has been slowly eroded away as more and more homegrown companies have gotten in on the act.
Digitalisation has helped to boost the fortunes of the gambling industry in the country, but in places like Dubrovnik it is land-based casinos that are leading the way in terms of revenues.
Dubrovnik certainly needs no help attracting tourists – over 1.3 million foreigners visited the city in 2018 – but casino gambling is certainly helping to boost the city’s appeal. In this article we will look at how Dubrovnik’s booming casinos are helping to boost the local economy.
Croatia’s Gambling Market
Every third person in Croatia has gambled in at least one form or another in their lives with many reporting that they regularly enjoy practicing their poker lingo at the table, having a spin on the roulette wheel or sitting back and enjoying the thrills of a slot machine.
In terms of companies fulfilling that demand, the amount of gambling operators in the country has fallen dramatically since 2010. Much of that though can be attributed to mergers and aggressive takeovers as can be seen by a significant overall gambling revenue increase of HRK 3 billion in 2017.
Interigre are the third largest gambling company in Croatia in terms of revenue and they are the by far the biggest players in the land-based casino industry. In 2017 over 90% of their revenues came from slot machines and casinos, but despite that they are not the biggest players in Dubrovnik’s casino scene.
Multinational company Ritzio International are the biggest name in the Dubrovnik gambling scene, owning well over half of the land-based casinos in the city. Their Vulkan Automat Klub’s can be found dotted all around Dubrovnik providing both foreigners and locals access to world-class gaming facilities.
Gambling & Employment
With such a thriving homegrown gambling market you would expect that the number of Croatian’s employed by the industry had grown in the last 10 years, however there hasn’t a huge spike in employment opportunities.
In fact, in 2017 – the last year with official statistics available – there were 6,300 people employed in Croatia by gambling companies, a drop of 500 since 2010. Anecdotally there are reports that the number has risen slightly in the last three years, but it is still not a huge figure.
The reason for that stagnation in growth is down to the aforementioned mergers in which many smaller gambling companies were swallowed up by their larger counterparts. Following the stabilisation of the market in the last 5 years, industry experts are predicting significant increases in employment opportunities over the coming years.
One pleasing sign is the growth in wages paid by gambling companies since 2010, when the average employee was paid HRK 281,000. Now those same employees are enjoying an 80% increase in salary, with the average worker taking home HRK 504,000.
The Wider Economic Benefits
Gambling is a major economic driver in most European countries not just because of the people that it directly employs but also because of the taxations collected from the industry. Up until recently in Croatia however, the sector was not as heavily taxed as other industries such as tobacco.
In recent years that has begun to change with companies paying far more than the 0.4% tax figure that they were paying in 2017. In the future it is believed that the Croatian government will look to impose similar taxes on gambling companies that the government does in the United Kingdom.
This could see Croatian companies paying 10% tax on their revenues and a further 21% tax on their yearly profits. What is harder to quantify in terms of specific economics however is the taxes that gamblers pay on their winnings in Croatia, which more than likely accounts for a significant amount of money.
Dubrovnik’s Gambling Options
Over 80% of Croatia’s total gambling revenues come from land-based venues, unlike other European countries who see a higher percentage of revenues coming from the online sector. Dubrovnik is well-catered for in terms of physical gambling venues with almost 12 medium-to-large casinos dotted around the city.
The Merit Libertas is one of the highest rated casinos in Dubrovnik, famed for its welcoming atmosphere and its large selection of table games and slot machines. Hardcore gamblers looking for almost constant betting action can avail of one of the many Vulkan Automat Klub’s around the city.
Most of these venues are open until 6am every morning and regularly play host to a series of high stakes poker games and other table tournaments.
Croatia was slow in uptake in terms of gambling, only falling in line with the rest of the EU in recent years. However, some of the countries largest gambling operators have been keen to make up for lost time and have their hearts set on further expansion in the coming years.
Economically speaking gambling is in a good place in Croatia with the average worker in the sector earning a very healthy wage. However, for the country to really feel the economic benefits of the gambling sector a move to mimic the tax laws of the UK is needed sooner rather than later.