EEGReport Magazine: The Belarusian online gambling sector has been subject to debate for quite some time now. What are the recent developments, and are foreign operators likely to be able to apply for licensing in the next few years?
Most recent developments in Belarusian gambling sector were connected to taxation area. One of the expected developments in the sector concerns online casino regulation. Currently, online casinos located in Belarus are prohibited.
The licencing requirements do not apply to foreign companies offering online gambling services from outside Belarus to local players and not having commercial presence in Belarus, i.e. they do not apply to the companies incorporated outside Belarus and using internet-platforms registered beyond the national domain zone “by” and using servers located outside Belarus.
EEGReport Magazine: Which are the current key operators that are licensed or are allowed in Belarus?
Only Belarusian operators are licensed for gambling activity in Belarus. Most of them are operating bookmaker’s offices, including online. The Ministry of Taxes and Duties as a state authority responsible for gambling sector publishes the list of operators on its official web-site: http://www.nalog.gov.by/ru/specialnoe-razreshenie/.
EEGReport Magazine: As we know, the Belarusian Government actively censors and monitors internet usage within the country and the current laws gives the government the authority to block access to sites it deems offensive or dangerous and prosecute those who access or disseminate restricted information. How is this working out? Has it been put to use effectively or are players still getting thorough the restriction?
Recent amendments of 2016 provide for procedure of blocking access to sites. There are several examples when internet sites were blocked.
Generally, state agencies within their competence determine which sites are beyond the law and shall be blocked. Then they send information containing the domain name and IP-address of the resource, as well as violations of the norm (with reference to the relevant legislation) to the Ministry of Information. Regulation provides that any Belarusian citizen may initiate blocking by sending a request to the relevant authorities.
If the Ministry of Information decides to block the resource, it notifies the owner of the site (if it belongs to a Belarusian company or a citizen) within three working days with a copy of the decision in that regard, as well as the State Inspectorate.
State Inspectorate includes the site in the black list, and then the Internet service providers are obliged to close the access to it during the day. The black list is not made public.
According to the Regulation the black list includes the so-called anonymizers, proxy servers, as well as “anonymous Tor network type” that could be used to bypass the block.
We are not aware of any application of blocking tool to players.
EEGReport Magazine: We have read somewhere that the Belarus government was set to launch online casino. Has this plan gone thorough?
Yes, there was such news regarding special platform for online casino in Belarus. The most recent updates say about development of a concept on online gambling on servers located in Belarus. On the one hand, it may lead to legalising online casinos in Belarus. On the other, that concept may lead to obligatory location of casino’s servers within the territory of Belarus.
EEGReport Magazine: What is the current taxing bracket for online gambling and who controls the taxation?
Belarus tax law does not differentiate between online and terrestrial gambling.
Special tax on gambling activity shall be paid by a Belarusian company from its gambling business. The objects of taxation for this tax are a game table, a slot machine, a counter of totalizator/bookmaker office and a positive difference between bets received and winnings paid.
Tax rates are fixed amounts, except for positive difference between bets received and winnings paid where tax rate is 4%.
Tax period is one month.
This special tax substitutes VAT and CIT payment in regard to income gained from gambling activity.
Since 1 January 2016 PIT rate for players (individuals) is 4% in respect of winnings (betting returned without playing) received from the gambling organisers – Belarusian companies.
The Ministry of Taxes and Duties exercises control over taxation of gambling operators.
EEGReport Magazine: Is advertising of operators permitted or is there a restriction in regards to advertising of gambling?
Advertising of gambling in Belarus is subject to restrictions under Belarus law. It shall not:
- create an impression that a winning is guaranteed to any participant;
- create an impression, that participation in gambling is a means of gaining profit in any form;
- contain assertion that participation in gambling has an important meaning for public acknowledgement, professional, sports or personal success;
- use the images of the minors;
- contain phrases which exaggerate possibility of win or understate the risk degree;
- condemn non-participation in gambling.
Advertising of gambling and gambling venues is prohibited:
- on TV and radio from 7.00 to 22.00;
- in education, healthcare, culture, sports institutions or buildings, except for bookmaker`s offices and totalizers located there;
- in mass media designed for the minors (under age of 18) or specialising in ecology, education and healthcare;
- on toys.
Any activity, including contests, lotteries, and other entertainment or promotion actions aimed at promotion of gambling activities is prohibited.
EEGReport Magazine: What advice would you give to potential new entrants that are considering the Belarusian gambling market (operators, affiliates, suppliers etc.)?
The main piece of advice is to start from careful exploring the legal frameworks for gambling at the very moment of market entering. There are potential important amendments to the current regulations which may be adopted soon and seriously affect the business scheme.
EEGReport Magazine: Looking further afield, where are the major emerging opportunities in Eastern Europe for operators at this moment?
In our view, the major emerging opportunity in gambling lies online. Operators could discover new markets by following updates in relevant regulations. For the past 5-6 years the Eastern European region had undergone certain notable legal amendments in this regard.