Sports betting in Uzbekistan: to be or not to be?

Due to the instability of the global economy, more and more Eastern European countries are considering legalizing the gambling industry. While some of them, like Ukraine, are giving the green light to all gambling activities, others are approaching such a delicate issue with considerable caution. For instance, in late 2019, the government of Uzbekistan set the goal of legalizing the sportsbook business to create more gaming opportunities. Slotegrator asks the question: what are the results so far?

The background

Back in November 2019, the presidential decree "On measures to bring the football development in Uzbekistan to a new level" was published on the portal of the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan. What is striking is that, in spite of its title, the decree directly involved the sports betting sector: it declared that the sportsbook industry would be legalized in order to invest the tax revenues from betting businesses in the development of the country's sports institutions — mainly football.

It was assumed that the respective bill would be designed and approved within a few months. In turn, the legal framework and the addition of new regulations to the legislation were expected to come into effect at the turn of the new year, by January 2021.

The goals of the betting business 

There are several reasons that led the government to consider the betting business as a potential resource, two of which stand out. The first is the furious fight against the outflow of funds towards the black market (as often happens when gambling is banned), and the second is the Football Federation of Uzbekistan’s need for financial support in order to achieve success in the international arena.

Initially, it was claimed that operators would need to get a special license, which, according to various sources, would be issued by the Capital Market Development Agency. As mentioned above, based on the initiative, a certain percentage of the sector's revenue would be directed to the state budget.

It is just as important to note that the development of the betting market was supposed to bring new sponsors and new financial investments to the sport. At the same time, there was no information regarding either the issuance of licenses to foreign companies or whether they can even apply for a license.

Also under discussion were some regulations to ensure a healthy gambling environment. For example, there were plans to establish restrictions regarding the size of bets, as well as to limit the number of straight lost rounds.

At the time of this writing, bookmaking activities in Uzbekistan, as well as the whole gambling industry (with the exception of state lotteries), remain outlawed.

IMPORTANT: at the moment, there is no draft law on the legalization of betting activities in Uzbekistan.

Gambling legislation Uzbekistan

Since 1991, the gambling industry has been banned from providing entertainment to the citizens of Uzbekistan. Consequently, operators who organize any illegal gambling activity face serious criminal punishment.

Taking the aforementioned information into account, we must state that it is impossible to legally operate both land-based and online gambling businesses in Uzbekistan. More critically, access to foreign online casinos is also illegal and, therefore, prosecuted.

The only officially permitted form of gambling entertainment in the country is the state lottery. There are several varieties available, including Russian lotto (bingo).

KEY DATES 

  • 1991 | Ban on gambling activities
  • 2003 | Resolution No. 314 "On Licensing Organization Lottery Activities". A state fee, 35 minimum wages, is charged for the issuance of a license.
  • 2007 | Resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan No. PP-608 "On measures to suppress illegal activities related to the organization and conduct of gambling"

The Muynak gambling zone

In 2019, there was quite a promising sign for the gambling industry in Uzbekistan after officials announced a resolution to develop the country’s social and economic spheres and unleash the potential of Uzbekistan’s tourism industry. In light of the announcement, authorities planned to establish a legal gambling zone in Muynak, a well-known tourist destination. According to the original plans, by the end of 2020, Muynak would have been transformed into a modern entertainment and tourism cluster in order to boost the development of both national and international tourism, as well as the country's overall economy.

Meanwhile, the project included the creation of an independent administrative unit, which would consist of several hotel complexes, a shopping mall, gambling halls, poker rooms, and other forms of gambling entertainment.

We should underline that the gambling zone was to be designed exclusively for foreign citizens, since the official religion in Uzbekistan, Islam, prohibits any engagement in gambling.

In this specially designated space, the government of Uzbekistan intended to organize several business areas for:

  • Sport (a track might be built for the Rally Muynak)
  • Trade
  • Pilgrim tourism
IMPORTANT: The construction of the gambling zone has been suspended (the work ended at the preparatory stage, and nothing is known about the date of its resumption).

One stumbling block is the lack of regulations with regard to the gambling industry. There is not much information available; the government of Uzbekistan has not recently given any comments or disclosed any new details on the issue. However, while progress may seem to have stalled, officials have not announced the cancellation of their plans, either.

It is highly likely that a gambling zone in Muynak will be built sooner or later. However, delays should be expected, and construction will likely only be finished after the introduction of amendments to current legislation.

Learn more about legislative initiatives in Uzbekistan and address your questions regarding opening or expanding a gambling business anywhere in the world to Slotegrator’s sales managers.

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