How Are Things Going with Gambling Business in Belarus: State of the Industry
The Republic of Belarus is one of the few CIS countries where both land-based and online casinos are legal. The online segment started its official operation on April 1, 2019. Currently, this sector is developing. So how are things going with the gambling industry in the country today?
The general state of the Belarusian gambling market
The situation in the gambling industry of Belarus is ambiguous. The country legalized the activity of land-based and online casinos, but the terms of license acquisition are rather strict and strong competition exists. As for the beginning of spring 2019, the country had 386 gambling houses.
- 26 casinos;
- 179 slot machine parlors;
- 181 betting shops.
The revenue from the gambling industry is growing slowly: in 2017, it was equal to $21.9 million and reached $23.1 million in 2018. Available gambling activities include casinos and betting shops.
The number of gambling houses has decreased lately: overall 26 casinos operate now as compared to 32 casinos in 2015. The reason is the tightening of taxation conditions that started in 2016 (the income tax on winnings is 4%). Afterwards, small companies found it unprofitable to work in the market, but big players stay and continue their activities.
Popular land-based casinos
The biggest hub of gambling in the country is Minsk where you can find 11 gaming venues, 95 play tables, 667 slot machines. The largest facility is Opera Casino Minsk that houses 24 play tables, as well as 153 slot and poker machines. Other popular gambling facilities are also located in the capital, and the rest of big casinos are found in border towns such as Vitebsk, Grodno, Brest, Polotsk, Mogilev, and Gomel.
Nemiga Princess Casino. This facility is a part of the Princess International network. The casino offers seven American-style roulette tables, poker, blackjack, and 78 slot machines in the VIP hall. Elegance Casino operates nearby and offers 46 slot machines and a sports betting outlet.
Casino Shangri La. The large casino offers customers not only a wide selection of games but also organizes tours that include flights and transfers, accommodation, and access to the gambling zone. The casino has 15 play tables, two exclusive VIP halls, and slots. Customers can play blackjack, poker, roulette, and have an opportunity to place increased bets.
Casino Emir. The casino offers guests to try luck at 8 play tables and 50 slot machines. The casino has American roulette, slot machines parlor, blackjack, poker, and a possibility to place special bets. The casino also has a VIP hall with games on unique conditions.
Permit for advertising betting
On October 2, 2019, the Belarusian law about advertising underwent changes. They allow advertising betting houses and totes through sports teams and events. The Belarusian Ice Hockey Association initiated those changes. Now ads of betting brands can be seen on stadiums and official sports uniforms.
Representatives of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Association believe it will develop the sports industry and will help find new sources of financing. Owners of betting houses will also receive benefits, as they will get new conditions for business promotion.
State of the Belarusian gambling industry
The online segment of the Belarusian gambling market started operation not so long ago – a corresponding decree came into effect on April 1, 2019. The rules of license acquisition and operation are rather tough: the tax service and the Monitoring Center require remote access to the gambling resource and online casinos have to connect to the general point-of-sale system.
Nevertheless, online gambling resources are opened and successfully operate in the country. For example, Wild Slots, LUXURY Casino, Casino Action, BOX 24 Casino, and others. The well-known bookmaker LEON opened a subsidiary in Belarus in August this year and started to accept online bets. Representatives of the company appraised the market as a promising one in terms of the regulation.
Difficulties of licensing
Gambling permits are issued by the Ministry of Taxes and Assessments. Only legal entities registered in the country can submit an application and the business has to be the primary employment for the chief executive officer. Besides, the executive must have three years of experience in the gambling industry.
Separate requirements are set for gambling premises. It must be a permanent structure where the business must occupy the whole space or standalone isolated rooms. Before filing the application for the license, one has to get the approval for the location and the report about premises compliance with the law.
The licensee is obliged to ensure fair play, safe custody of premises and visitors, and the professionalism of employees. The licensee also has to pay out winnings in time and according to rules as well as pay taxes to the state budget.
It is difficult to call the gambling tax system loyal. For example, all gambling assets including play tables, slot machines, cashiers of totes, and betting shops, are taxable. Besides, the country has a 4% income tax on winnings since 2016.
Experts believe that this tax decreased the market profitability by 15-20%, which made small firms to leave the market, but large operators strengthened their positions. Such tax rate is not very profitable for entrepreneurs but efficiently refills the state budget: state revenue from gambling operators has increased twofold since the introduction of the law.
Since 2011, Belarus has tightened control over the activity of gambling companies. For this reason, many business owners found themselves in the conditions of tough competition when only large players considered it beneficial to stay in the market. Besides, taxes are also gradually growing.
This year, new opportunities have opened for the country: now online casinos are allowed in Belarus by law. The future development of the Belarusian gambling industry mainly depends on the government and new legislative introductions.