The phrase ‘political betting’ has taken on a whole new meaning after two top politicians in the Czech Republic made a public six-figure wager over who was telling the truth.
The fracas kicked off on Wednesday during a Parliamentary committee debate over the country’s proposed 2016 budget. Former finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (pictured left), a member of the TOP 09 party, took exception to a claim by current Finance Minister Andrej Babis (pictured right), who belongs to the ANO party, that Kalousek’s 2008 decision to authorize online sports betting had led police to open an investigation into Kalousek.
An outraged Kalousek challenged Babis to put his money where his mouth is, offering to bet 10m koruna (US $421k) that Babis was lying. Babis promptly accepted, and each man told Czech public broadcasters that their bet was legit and each man predicted they would emerge victorious.
Babis would appear to be closer to collecting on his wager, as Czech media had reported on an investigation of Kalousek back in 2011. Kalousek was suspected of taking millions from Marek Dospiva, a co-founder of Penta Investments Group, which holds a majority stake in Czech betting operator Fortuna Entertainment Group, one of the first companies to receive an online betting license in 2008.
Wednesday’s verbal dustup came after the government’s lower house approved a new two-tiered gambling tax plan on Monday. Following the vote, Babis accused Jan Bartosek and Ladislav Sincl, two members of ANO’s coalition partners, of having submitted a rival tax proposal to the Chamber of Deputies in July that Babis claims was drafted by Betting Businesses Association chief Marek Herman.
Bartosek has rejected Babis’ allegations and insists the draft he submitted is his own creation. Seeking to temper the rhetoric, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said Babis should “definitely apologize” and that ANO members should not “spread slanders about coalition lawmakers.”
Meanwhile, Fortuna has opened a prop wager on whether police will charge former interior minister Ivan Langer with corruption related to his law firm’s involvement in the sale of a solar power plant. But really, who needs solar power when there’s so much steam coming off the country’s elected officials?