Austrian authorities raid illegal gambling operations
The Austrian Financial Police have shut down a number of illegal gambling operations in the state of Upper Austria, following a series of raids that saw 38 gaming machines and two poker tables confiscated.
The Financial Police, which operate under the Ministry of Finance and deal with tax and social security fraud, illegal gambling, as well as labour rights and employment regulation violations, targeted six locations in the cities of Linz and Wels.
“We have ramped up efforts in response to the perpetrators’ obvious audacity and greed,” Austrian finance minister Gernot Blümel said. “It should not be forgotten that not only are taxes being evaded, but [the operators] are also playing with the lives of gambling addicts.”
One of the locations raided, a restaurant, was targeted for the seventh time in seven weeks, with the Financial Police finding unlicensed gaming machines at the venue each time.
Since the end of May, a total of 20 devices have been confiscated from this restaurant alone. On this occasion, the owners had fixed the machines to the floor in an attempt to prevent their being confiscated.
A second location attempted to prevent the police from entering, forcing the authorities to bring in a locksmith, while an employee was reported to the administrative criminal authority for failing to cooperate with the police.
At a third location, in Wels, police discovered an illegal poker tournament, at a restaurant with around 30 people playing on four slots and two poker tables. This saw two individuals, both illegally in the country, arrested, with investigations against all venues raided ongoing.
“I congratulate our colleagues from the Financial Police for this successful large-scale operation,” Austrian finance minister Blümel said. “This also confirms the recent trend that gambling is now mainly concentrated in metropolitan areas such as Vienna and Linz.”
Earlier this year Blümel spoke out in favour of establishing an independent gambling regulator for Austria, to take responsibility for overseeing the market from the Ministry of Finance. This, he said, would "untangle" multiple functions currently held within the Treasury.