Belarus looks set to bring in a number of changes to its gambling laws, the most significant of which are moves to introduce a regulated online casino industry to the country.
Currently operating as a ‘grey market’ i.e., one in which players can access online gambling sites that are based outside of Belarus, but operators are not permitted to be based in the country, the proposed new legislation will make it legal for casino operators to be located in Belarus and to advertise and offer gaming services to locals, provided they have the appropriate licensing and tax arrangements in place.
A regulated online gambling market has proven to be hugely successful in the UK — for operators, players and the taxman — so it will be interesting to see whether major UK casino brands, such as those that are featured on top5casinosites, will try to cash in on any new evolving online gaming market in Belarus.
Interestingly, the proposed shift in approach regarding regulated online gambling appears to be part of a wider move towards the liberalisation of the country’s economy, in an attempt both to boost foreign investment and to bolster the country’s burgeoning tech sector. Most notably, stakeholders in the country’s High-Tech Park will soon be able to provide cryptocurrency exchange, make Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), and mine cryptocurrencies, as the government in Minsk tries to ride the global fintech wave.
Belarus’ New Online Gambling Laws
With regard to the proposed revisions to the country’s gambling laws, the state-owned news agency BelTA has reported that President Alexander Lukashenko has signed legislation that effectively paves the way for the introduction of legal and regulated online casinos in Belarus.
Significantly, Sergei Nalivaiko, Minister of Taxes and Levies, has put a framework in place to license and tax online casino operators. Operators who want access to this new market will be required to lodge a deposit into an escrow account to ensure that its obligations can be met with regard to payouts to winning players and taxation. In addition, it is proposed that for a licence to be granted, Belarus tax authorities would need to be given remote access to certain aspects of a casino operator’s back end in order to monitor cash activity and turnover in relation to income tax and earnings.
As part of a suite of changes, the legislation would also seek to raise the legal gambling age in Belarus to 21 years of age, up from 18 where it is currently. This would apply not only to online gambling, but also to the country’s network of land-based casinos.
Along with the online gambling legislation, there are also expected to be changes to other aspects of gambling law in Belarus, including making it illegal to lend another person money for the purpose of gambling, and the mandatory introduction of CCTV and video surveillance systems into all casinos and gambling facilities.
As a compensatory measure, existing land-based casinos will see their rates of taxation frozen for at least the next three years as a way of helping them through the transition phase of the introduction of online gambling.
The Belarus government has for some time been concerned at the amount of money leaving the country through its citizens choosing to gamble at offshore casinos and betting sites. It would seem that after observing the effect of a regulated market on the online gambling industry in the UK — and the significant amounts of revenue it has generated for the Treasury — it has formed the view that a controlled and accredited market is not only the best way to keep money in the country, but also to open up an extremely efficient pipeline for that cash to make its way into the state’s coffers as well.