The privatisation of the Sports Lottery of Slovenia is said to be well underway, despite the fact that the entire political leadership, from both the coalition and the opposition, has spoken out against it. The latter is opposed to the sale of the Sports Lottery, as it is the source of funding for the Sports Foundation, and if sold, the drop in funding would be measured in millions of euros. The coalition ranks claim to be opposed to the sale as well, but apparently, this is not entirely true. Contrary to their public claims, they have sufficient leverage in their hands to prevent the sale. So far, they have not used it. And as some point out, the sale has already been agreed.
“Exclusive: a done deal. The sale of the Sports Lottery will happen,” editor and commentator Mirko Mayer revealed on Twitter, adding that the Slovenian Ski Association and the Football Association of Slovenia, as the 37-percent owners of the Sports Lottery, had already sent applications to the Ministry of Finance for approval of the sale some time ago.
Minister Klemen Boštjančič and the Ministry of Finance are expected to decide on their approval by the 4th of July, 2023. They are expected to “give their blessing” to the deal by not commenting on the applications, “which will be considered as the silence of the authority and is formally tantamount to consent.”
This is provided for in Article 209(5) of the General Administrative Procedure Act, which states that “If that authority does not notify the authority designated to issue the decision, either that it gives consent or that it withholds it, within the time limit, it shall be deemed to have given its consent.” This is also provided for by the Gambling Act, in Article 32, which says: “A legal person may acquire or dispose of the shares of an organiser only with the prior consent of the Minister of Finance, otherwise the transaction shall be null and void,” and further, “the Minister of Finance must decide on the application for consent referred to in the third paragraph of this Article within one month of the submission of a complete application and complete documentation, otherwise consent shall be deemed to have been given.”
This is, therefore, the mechanism by which the government of Robert Golob could have prevented the sale. By simply issuing a negative opinion in a timely manner. However, the Prime Minister claims that he cannot influence the sale. When the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) MP Zvone Černač asked him a parliamentary question on the matter, the Prime Minister replied: “I will say it again. The government is not the owner of the Sports Lottery, and as MP Černač knows very well, the system of managing investments in state assets is organised in a completely different way, and just as the National Assembly does not have powers in this matter, neither does the government.” To claim that the Government and the National Assembly have no power in this matter is, of course, nothing but feigning ignorance, which Černač went on to explain.
“You said that the government has nothing to do with it because they are selling the Sports Lottery organisation. I told you at the outset that 20 percent of the investment in the Sports Lottery of Slovenia is represented by the Slovenian Post, which is 100 percent state-owned, and that another 20 percent of the investment is represented by the Lottery of Slovenia, which is indirectly state-owned through the Capital Association (Kapitalska Družba), the two Foundations for the Financing of Humanitarian and the Disabled People’s Organisations of the Republic of Slovenia and the Sports Federation of Slovenia, and that the state has a say in this. But given your answer, I fear that the Sports Lottery, which was founded in 1995 and will therefore celebrate its 30th anniversary in two years’ time, will not live to see that anniversary under Slovenian ownership. The Sports Lottery of Slovenia was not established so that one day, by selling it to a foreign fund, someone would collect a fat commission and, as a result, jeopardise the activities of sports and disabled people’s organisations, but to support Slovenian sports, especially amateur Slovenian sport,” Černač pointed out.
MP Černač then urged Golob that if the three shareholders of the Sports Lottery Slovenia want to sell their shares by all means, the government should exercise its pre-emption rights through the companies Slovenian Post and the Lottery of Slovenia, which hold a 40 percent stake in the Sports Lottery, so that these shares remain in Slovenian ownership.
The ownership structure shows that the buyer, who will buy out the shares of the three sellers (the Ski and Football Associations and the Olympic Committee), will control the Sports Lottery with a 57,3 percent ownership stake. This will be done despite the clear instruction of the Members of the National Assembly against it and, consequently, against the will of the people, as well as against the opinion of the Sports Foundation, which is financed by the Sports Lottery.
Golob’s man at the top of the Olympic Committee of Slovenia
When former Director-General of the Gorenje company, Franjo Bobinac, was elected President of the Olympic Committee of Slovenia, we speculated about the consequences of the election result. It was clear that he enjoyed the confidence of the Prime Minister, otherwise, he could never have been elected to the Supervisory Board of the Slovenian Sovereign Holding. As “Golob’s man,” he will provide a suitable candidate for the newly created and “depoliticised” Programme Council of the national media outlet Radio-Television Slovenia, we speculated some time ago. However, the sale of the Sports Lottery was not yet being discussed at that time.
But Bobinac also had the strong support of Aleksander Čeferin. “My conversation with him further strengthened my conviction that I made the right decision to embark on this Olympic journey. And I know that if I am elected as President of the Olympic Committee of Slovenia – Association of Sports Federations (OKS-ZŠZ), I will have a strong ally in Aleksander Čeferin on the international sports floor,” Bobinac said before the election. His thoughts were summarised by Odlazek’s media outlets.
Thus, the Prime Minister’s recent trip to Istanbul, where he went with his extramarital partner to watch the Champions League final, becomes interesting and meaningful. The President of UEFA is, of course, Aleksander Čeferin, former President of the Slovenian Football Association and arguably the biggest power broker in European football. According to some analyses, he is one of the hidden protagonists behind the sale of the Slovenian Football Association’s stake. The latter allegedly wanted to get rid of its share by any means, as it received a controversial 4-million-euro loan from UEFA for the purchase, thus breaking both FIFA and UEFA’s rules, reports the media outlet Prava.
Golob will “definitely stay quiet about it”
But as Mayer pointed out, Golob will apparently not comment on the sale or, in other words, will definitely stay quiet about it, “otherwise that ‘cup stroking’ at the Champions League final with Tina Gaber in Istanbul would cost him too much, perhaps even ending his political career prematurely.”