Deputy prime minister Serdar Denktas says he has received death threats since the government moved to close two betting shop chains.
Wednesday 10th , the Cabinet ordered the Licenses of Stan Toto and Quickwin to be suspended and all branches shut down for a month due to their failure to meet their legal liabilities.
Mr Denktas, who is responsible for betting shops in his role as Economy, Tourism, Culture and Sports Minister, was reported as saying the chains had not paid their franchise fee and owed the government some 4.7 million TL between them.
The companies are believed to have about 300 staff in 29 branches -21 of Stan Toto and eight of Quickwin.
Mr Denktas commented that death threats against himself and his family had been made “through middlemen” in the two to three days after the shutdowns, but added: “I would not give any credence to such threats. I will continue to do what I believe and what is right.”
The operation and proliferation of betting shops has long been a controversial issue, with critics saying they promote social problems such as bankruptcies, suicides and family divisions.
However this is the first time that such action has been taken.
Mustafa Sener, director of Stan Toto Betting, called on Mr Denktas to review the decision.
He denied any issue over money owed to the government, saying: “we had a face-to-face meeting with the Finance Ministry and came to a consensus on the restructuring of our debt.”
He admitted the firm, which had ploughed 50 billion TL into the business over an 18-month period, had had financial problems, but said it had plans to downsize and pursue a “more organised and structured” business strategy next year.
Speaking to reporters, Hikmet Burkay, head of the Tax Office, said his team examined the finances of the betting shops following the Cabinet decision, adding :”If the companies meet their liabilities- payment of franchise and tax fees – their branches can re-open but there would need to be a new Cabinet decision for that.”
Mr Burkay refused to divulge the amount of the betting companies’ debt to the Tax Office.