Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has signed a decree to legalize and regulate online casinos. Under the new law, online gambling providers will be able to apply for licenses to offer their services in Belarus. The decree has also raised the legal gambling age from 18 to 21.
The Belarusian Telegraph Agency reported on Wednesday that the new law will require online casinos to adhere to certain regulations in order to maintain licenses. Among those requirements include keeping a certain amount of money on hand to cover customers’ balances and tax payments in case the operation fails.
Licensed Belarusian casino sites will also be required to grant the government remote access to the site for tax purposes. Licensed casinos will also be required to use a special payment system designed to monitor the movement of money.
One other change in the law includes a provision that visitors of gambling parlors be prohibited from lending money to other visitors. EuropeanGaming.eu reported last month when the legislation was first proposed that the new law will cover online casino games as well as sportsbooks and that foreign entities will be allowed to apply for licenses.
Opening the Gambling Market is Good for Business
Belarus may not be known for free and fair elections or political freedom, but the government does seem to have a grasp of certain business concepts. The decree signed by President Lukashenko will assist in keeping more money at home with casino sites finally having a legal path to the market and paying taxes rather than operating illegally from abroad and paying no taxes.
According to an iGaming Business post last month discussing the introduction of the bill, brick-and-mortar tax rates are set to remain at current levels of the next three years. It is unclear if Belarusian online casinos will be taxed the same rates.
The move to legalize online gambling in Belarus marks a dramatic change for a nation that at one point threatened to fine citizens for visiting unauthorized gambling sites. Belarus is still known for squashing dissent and silencing independent journalists who don’t toe the party line, but there is the occasional bright spot here and there.
Internet access is becoming more widespread and recently, the government has relaxed its stance on certain issues. For instance, Freedom House notes that public venues are no longer required to acquire a license before offering Wi-Fi. The country is still severely lacking in certain freedoms, but online gambling will not be one of those in the near future.
On top of all that, internet censorship rarely works out over the long run – even under heavy handed governments such as that which rules Belarus. Many countries attempt to block online access to online casinos, but none have been able to staunch the flow of money outward to offshore providers who pay no local taxes.
The government has also considered opening its own state-run online casino. Going back as early as 2014, the government has indicated an interest in starting its own gambling site. According to some reports, that may still be a possibility, but the fate of any potential state-owned gambling site remains unclear.