Belarusian Lawmakers Not Bullish On Online Casino Boom

Belarusian lawmakers do not expect any significant boom in the number of licensed online casinos, following the recent approval of a decree that legalized that type of activity in the country, local news outlet BelTA reported.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko signed earlier this month Decree No. 305, a legislative piece aiming to improve the state of the country’s gambling industry and to introduce better tools for the protection of customers. Following the presidential approval, the legislation is now set to take effect on April 1, 2019.

Among other things, the decree will allow existing land-based casinos around the country to apply for online licenses. Commenting on the new regime, Deputy Tax and Duties Minister Vladimir Mukvich said that they do not believe there will be a massive growth in the number of online casinos in the country in the next few years. The minister further pointed out that there are no visible preconditions for any such trend.

Online casinos will officially become legal in Belarus on April 1, 2019 with the enforcement of Decree No. 305. Lawmakers have said that measures will be implemented to prevent online gambling from assuming monopoly over the country’s gambling industry. As a result, applicants for online gambling licenses will be required to fulfill a number of requirements. For instance, it has become known that brick-and-mortar gambling establishments will have to apply separately for online gaming licenses in order to be able to conduct that type of activity. Minister Mukvich told media that such establishments will be granted a transitional through April 1, 2021.

Customer Protection Tools

Among other things, Decree No. 305 also aims to introduce better tools for the protection of gambling customers from risks related to their participation in the activity. The piece of legislation thus raises the legal gambling age to 21 from 18.

Land-based gambling establishments are currently monitored strictly by the state and Decree No. 305 was crafted in a manner that will ensure that Internet operations are monitored just as closely. The legislative piece will require online casinos to keep records of the entire game processes of their players. These records will be available to all competent bodies.

Online casinos will also be connected to a cash system, a measure that is believed will further ensure transparency in the provision of online gaming services.

A separate provision in the decree requires the establishment of a pledge fund that will cover player payouts, taxes, and other payments in case of insolvency of a given online gambling business. Minister Mukvich said yesterday that such practices are popular around the world. The size of the pledge fund is yet to be determined, but the lawmaker said that the government will look to make a decision on the matter before next year’s implementation of the decree.

Belarus’ casino industry is currently comprised of 106 licensees who provide land-based services. The tax revenue they contribute annually accounts for around 0.2% of the nation’s budget. According to local experts, about half of all existing Belarusian casinos will be able to provide online gaming services.

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