While the laws, regulations, and licensing requirements can be complicated, overall the casino industry in Belarus is thriving well enough that a number of operators have entered the market in the wake of the recent legalization of online gambling.
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Laws and Regulations
Belarusian law permits a variety of forms of gambling. The gambling industry began gathering steam after the practice was banned in neighboring Russia. The following forms of gambling are all permitted under Belarusian law:
- Sports betting
- Land-based casinos
- National lotteries
- Online casinos and bookmakers
- Slot machine halls
While many forms of gambling had been legal for a long time, the legalization of online gambling occurred on April 1, 2019, and a number of operators have already deemed the market viable and entered it. Gambling advertisements in sporting events were legalized as of October 2, 2019, in an initiative largely driven by the Belarusian hockey association.
Requirements to open a casino in Belarus
There are a series of requirements that operators must fulfill in order to open an online casino in Belarus. Some gambling industry professionals view the licensing requirements in Belarus as overly stringent. There are slightly different requirements for opening land-based and online casinos. Here is an outline of the requirements for opening a casino in Belarus:
- Every gambling establishment must have a gambling license by the MNS (Tax and Duties Ministry). To get it, an operator must pay a state fee of 500 basic units. In 2019, 1 basic unit is 25.5 Belarusian rubles.
- All technical gambling equipment must be certified by the Ministry of Taxes and Assessments.
- Only persons legally registered in the country have the right to open a gambling business.
- Gambling licenses are issued for a period of ten years.
- Premises must be a permanent structure fully occupied by the gambling business or standalone rooms dedicated to the gambling business.
- Licensees must ensure fair play and the safety of visitors on the premises.
- Only entities legally registered in Belarus may apply for a license.
- The gambling business must be the primary employment of the CEO.
- The CEO must have at least three years of experience in the gambling industry.
- Operators must have a security deposit of $1 million from which the wins and mandatory payments can be made in the event of financial insolvency of the operator.
- Operators must accurately identify each visitor to the online platform.
- Operators must provide the tax authorities with remote access to the site server and connect the resource to a special cashier system that will monitor the turnover of funds.
Revenues and Size of the Casino Industry
The gambling market in Belarus is viewed by many as a viable business opportunity. As of 2019, there were a large number of gambling establishments in Belarus. These include:
- 27 casinos
- 176 slot machine halls
- 188 betting shops
Over the past four years, the number of casinos and other gambling establishments has been slightly decreasing. The number of casinos has fallen from 32 to 27, 133 betting points have closed, and 57 slot machine halls have disappeared. However, this does not mean that gambling is going extinct. While some casinos have closed, at the same time, others have opened.
While some establishments are going out of business, overall revenues and tax revenues are rising, meaning that the fluctuations in the market could indicate movement towards consolidation. Overall, gambling market revenues are growing, but slowly. In 2017, gambling revenues were $21.9 million, rising to $23.1 million in 2018. An estimated 50-70% of state gambling revenues come from visiting Russian citizens.
Recent increases in taxes have driven a number of smaller operators and businesses out of the market, but larger ones have continued to find success. Belarus employs a tax scheme based on both set fees and percentages. The government levies a 4% income tax on player winnings. Casinos pay between €2500 and €4000 per gaming table and €80-€100 on slot machines.
During the same four-year period mentioned above in which a number of gambling establishments closed, government tax revenues from gambling increased. In that period:
- Tax revenues from operators rose by 15%
- Fixed rates on cash registers increased by 202%
- Fixed rates on slot machines increased by 47%
- Fixed rates on gaming tables increased by 30%
There are over 30 casinos in Belarus. There are 11 casinos in Minsk, which is the biggest city for gambling in Belarus. Of those 11, the biggest earners are the Belaya Vezha, the Shangri La, the Opera, the Victoria Cherry, and the Royal Casino. The cities of Gomel, Brest, Grodno, and Vitebsk are also popular destinations for gambling.
Some major operators have already taken advantage of legalized online gambling, including Wild Slots, LUXURY Casino, Casino Action, BOX 24 Casino, and several others, as well as a subsidiary of the Russian bookmaker LEON.
Overall, while the land-based market is moving towards consolidation, the recently-regulated online market still presents a fresh opportunity.