The outgoing 2022 year was filled with major events for the entire iGaming industry, and for the CIS region and Eastern Europe in particular. Romania has become one of the leading emerging markets in terms of attractiveness, Georgia has been accustomed to new regulations, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are introducing new regulations, and Ukraine, despite the ongoing full-scale war, tries to keep its gambling market afloat.
Since the introduction of the online market regulations in 2015, Romania has become an attractive destination for the foreign investments. License to organize online gambling activities may be granted to Romanian companies, or companies registered in the European Union, in a member-state to the European Economic Area Agreement, or in the Swiss Confederacy.
The license grants the owner the right to organize online gambling activity for a 10-year period. The annual fee has a minimum value of 6,000 Euro (for startups) or a maximum of 120,000 Euro, for companies with annual turnover of more than 10 million Euro.
At the beginning of this year, the President of the Romanian Gambling Association, Dan Ghita, in an interview for SBC CIS noted: “Besides the advantages of having a mature market, with a clear legislation, strongly adapted to the realities of the industry, international operators, as well as the Romanian ones, benefit from the presence of well-known and highly-appreciated suppliers.”
Romania also has a very good internet connection, available throughout the country, the local professionals are ready to support the activity of an international company and fulfill the appetites of the Romanian customers for online and retail products.
In just one year, PressEnter launched NitroCasino in Romania, PopOK Gaming slots got certified in the country, Betsoft Gaming entered the market with 888 deal, and during the last SBC Summit Barcelona, Parimatch Deputy CEO Anna Motruk said that her company had also applied for a license in Romania.
The most important topic in Georgia’s iGaming industry continues to be the new regulations that gradually came into force this year.
According to the new rules, from January 1, 2022, online gambling businesses had a 65-70% increase in taxes; starting from March 1, gambling ads on TV, on Georgian webpages, as well as outdoors were banned; additionally, close to one million of Georgian citizens were banned from online gambling and are not allowed into land based casinos.
A month after the introduction of new regulations, economist Oto Abesadze spoke about some of the consequences that the market faced. Among them are the emergence of foreign online gambling systems with services and websites translated into Georgian; “account selling” to minors; creation of a crypto-casino – an area that is not regulated in the country, and much more.
In addition, the new regulations have caused great harm to the Georgian sports – Georgian football clubs and their academies have had to cut staff salaries by 40%, and in most cases, they are on the verge of bankruptcy.
In December 2022, Georgia once again tightened the rules for the industry. The Parliament has already started considering new amendments. According to them, casinos on water will be banned in the country, as well as new additional permissions will be required for online gambling operators.
At the beginning of the year, there were rumors that Armenia was about to ban all types of online gambling ads, as well as on television, radio, and in public places. On March 4, the Armenian Parliament adopted the new regulations.
According to them, the only advertising allowed can be at hotels that are 4 stars and above, border entry points into the Republic of Armenia, and gaming centers. TotoGaming Marketing Director Tereza Tokmajyan and Digitain lawyer Vahagn Tarakhchyan told SBC CIS that this ban could lead to the threat of closing advertising companies, layoffs, zero chance of new companies entering the market, and much more.
At the end of December 2022, the Armenian Parliament adopted the law on state duty, including an increase in taxes on betting companies, sweepstakes, and online gambling. Companies providing online gambling with prizes must acquire betting rights worth 100 billion drams (239.8 million euros) and pay fees of 175 million drams (419,800 euros). The draw system is different. For the right to accept bets up to 50 million drams, the operator must pay an additional 5 million drams.
This summer Kyrgyzstan’s legislature voted to re-legalize land-based gambling and launch online casinos for the first time.
According to the new regulations, the right to open a casino is given to legal entities, including those with foreign capital. The issuance of licenses is carried out by the authorized body.
Land-based casinos must only be set up in restaurants or hotel complexes. Slot halls, meanwhile, must be in separate rooms or buildings from any other type of business activity. All gambling will only be available to foreign players and those who are over 21 years of age.
This year turned out to be the most difficult for Ukraine. On February 24, Russian armed forces invaded the country’s territory, with active hostilities still ongoing. The economic and all business sectors of Ukraine have been seriously affected, and the gambling industry is no exception.
Ivan Rudy, the head of the Commission for Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries of Ukraine (CRGL), told SBC CIS in May how the business survived the first months of the war and how the regulator supported and helped the companies.
According to him, 11 out of 19 gambling organizers continue to work in the country, and the rest of them have temporarily closed all gambling points. Additionally, only one out of 17 online gambling operators has ceased operations.
However, it should be noted that the topic of doing business despite the war was relevant throughout the year. This was discussed by representatives of the regulator and the Ukrainian Gambling Council, as well as by local companies.
Despite the fact that Ukrainian business is going through a difficult period and an accurate assessment of losses will be possible only after the end of the war, some industry representatives talk about some interesting dynamics.
FAVBET Tech’s CEO Artem Skrypnyk said that the Ukrainian IT community’s interest in military technologies could be described as ‘moderate’ before the full-scale war. However, now Ukrainian IT specialists rediscover themselves in military tech.
It is also worth noting that the world community, and the gambling industry, in particular, expressed strong support for Ukraine – they created several charitable foundations, and the leading brands withdrew from the markets of Russia and Belarus.
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