Debate is brewing in Montenegro over a controversial electronic payments ban.


A petition to stop the implementation of a ban on electronic payments, including for the online betting and financial sectors, has reached over 25,000 signatures.

Article 68f has implications not just for Montenegro locals but more widely across the European Union as Montenegro looks to join the EU.

Key EU industry experts and think tanks have already raised concerns about its potential adverse effects.

Jovana Klisić, a representative of trade association Montenegro Bet, talks through some of the potential implications of the proposed regulation…

Article 68f under the spotlight

The provision starkly contrasts with multiple EU directives and regulations. It directly opposes the Montenegro – EU Stabilization and Association Agreement, Article 72, which mandates alignment with the EU acquis.

The Payment Services Directive, aimed at an integrated market for electronic payments, is also at odds with this law. The PSD2 ensures equal conditions for both existing and new market players, fostering consumer protection and payment service transparency across the Union.

However, Article 68f effectively denies electronic payment companies access to the EU market.

Furthermore, it conflicts with the EU 4 and 5AML Directive, where cash transactions are considered high-risk. By limiting transactions to cash or card payments at physical locations, it inadequately addresses money laundering risks, as smaller cash transactions, often below €1,000, could potentially be used for money laundering purposes. Montenegro's decision thus stands in contradiction to the EU's vision of a digital, integrated financial system for both country members and candidates.

The disputed article also overlooks the obligations under the Montenegrin Law on Administrative Procedure, which mandates public consultations in law and strategy preparation – a step seemingly bypassed in this case.

Also, to comply with the law in the present form, many locations need to satisfy minimum distance from schools in order to collect cash for deposits, which questions the sustainability of this controversial and illogical article.

Broader impacts of Article 68f

The industry is facing a double-edged sword – operational inefficiencies and potential economic repercussions.

With the sector directly and indirectly employing almost two per cent of the country’s workforce in an environment with a 15 per cent unemployment rate, any negative impact on this industry could have very harmful and far-reaching consequences.

The removal of e-banking and newsagents for deposits, despite their compliance and transparency, not only affects operational efficiency but also jeopardises jobs, echoing the detrimental effects on the broader economy of Montenegro.

Measures to address concerns

Our approach is comprehensive and proactive. Montenegro Bet, our trade association with decades-long experience in pursuing and implementing EU-compatible regulatory solutions, has already initiated a constitutional review, raising concerns about the unconstitutionality of this provision.

Significantly, we've mobilised public support, culminating in a petition with over 25,000 signatures gathered in only five days – representing about eight per cent of the national electorate – which we've submitted to the Assembly.

This remarkable show of public backing not only underscores the widespread concern but also highlights the risk of significant job losses in our industry, illustrating the potential economic repercussions of such legislative measures.

Additionally, we're engaging with key international institutions, drawing attention to how this law stands in conflict with EU directives and global standards on anti-money laundering. Our overarching aim is to realign Montenegro's regulatory framework with both EU and global financial norms, ensuring a just and transparent environment for the industry.

Failing to align with global practices

This article is an outlier when viewed against global trends. Internationally, there's a clear shift towards reducing cash transactions in favour of electronic payments, as advocated by bodies like MONEYVAL and FATF.

The global financial community is embracing digital solutions for their transparency and efficiency. Montenegro's move, therefore, not only isolates it from EU practices but also from the global financial community's direction.

In 2021, the European Commission urged Montenegro to intensify efforts in money laundering investigations and prosecution. The payment limitations set by Article 68f pose a significant risk of seeing Montenegro placed in a category of countries with heightened money laundering and terrorism financing risks.

Moreover, in 2022, the European Banking Authority emphasised the need for every EU citizen, and by extension, countries aspiring to EU membership, to have access to basic online banking services.

This directive aligns with the trend of increasing financial transactions being digitalised, a domain where e-banking and mobile banking services are getting closer to a status of commodity. However, Article 68f of the Law on Games of Chance in Montenegro excludes these crucial services, contradicting the EU's stance on modern financial inclusivity.

The future of Montenegro’s fintech industry

The future of Montenegro’s fintech industry is at a crossroads; we can state this without any exaggeration.

Our immediate focus is on mitigating the negative impacts of this law. But looking ahead, we see this communication crisis as an opportunity to bring Montenegro's financial practices in line with EU standards.

It's about more than just rectifying a single law; it's about ensuring that Montenegro's financial and regulatory frameworks are beneficial for a fair and competitive industry.