Belarus and Ukraine Advance Online Gaming

Belarus and Ukraine Advance Online Gaming

The weekly Global Glance looks at the online poker scene around the world. What happens with online poker and gambling beyond America’s borders can and often does impact the state of online poker in the United States.

Several countries offered up big news related to broadening the availability of online gambling. Belarus legalized most forms of online gambling, including poker, and Ukraine put poker back on the list of verified sports, removing it from anti-gambling laws. On the other hand, though, Russia implemented more technology to block online gambling sites operating without licenses.

The UK Gambling Commission warned online gaming operators to remove restrictions that keep players from accessing and withdrawing their winnings immediately. And in revenue news, Portugal shows significant increases across the board, including for its online poker sector, while Spain saw growth in most areas except online poker.

Belarus Moves Forward Fast for Online Gaming

At the beginning of August, Belarus legalized online gambling via a decree signed by President Alexander Lukashenko. The original wording of the law has since expanded to include most forms of betting and gaming, including bingo and card games like poker, online slots and live dealer games. Operators can obtain a license from the government with payments organized through a bank in Belarus, though servers can be located outside the country.

Per Deputy Tax and Duties Minister Vladimir Mukvich, online gaming will officially launch on April 1, 2019, at which time the licensing process will begin and remain open for two years. Numerous player protections will be implemented, and operators will be monitored closely.

While Mukvich said he doesn’t expect a large industry to develop, he does hope that Belarus players will be protected from rogue operators and the industry to be kept from a monopoly.

Ukraine Recognizes Poker as Sport

The Ministry of Youth and Sport officially classified poker as a sport and added it to the Register of Recognized Sports. Poker was on the list until 2010 when the country’s justice minister removed it and included poker in its 2009 Prohibition of Gambling Business in Ukraine law. However, poker clubs and players took the issue to court since then and obtained a favorable ruling for tournament poker from the nation’s highest court in 2013.

The move to put poker back on the list of recognized sports means all anti-gambling laws no longer apply to poker. Even so, it remains to be seen if new regulations will be introduced to formally legalize poker and create a regulatory framework to monitor games and tournaments.

Russia to Blacklist More Gaming Sites

The Russian government solidified its stance earlier in 2018 with regard to unlicensed online gambling sites by authorizing Russian-based financial institutions to block payments to said sites. That move was followed by an attempt by the Federal Tax Service to require those banks to provide personal information regarding any customers involved in gaming transactions.

Efforts just became more serious as telecom agency Roskomnadzor announced plans to implement a harsher plan to block online gambling sites. Beginning October 1, domains will be added to the blacklist via an improved mechanism to more accurately peg international sites.

Portugal Sees Online Poker Rise

Portuguese gambling regulator SRIJ reported second quarter revenue for online gaming in 2018 showing an increase in all verticals.

Sports betting benefitted from the FIFA World Cup, but all customer registrations increased by 40,000 from the previous year. Online casinos shot up by €5.4 million with slots dominating, and online poker increased as well. Cash games went up 15.3% and online poker tournaments up 5.1%.

Spain Sees Slight Decrease in Poker

Spanish gambling regulator DGOJ also presented second quarter earnings last week, but the results were mixed.

The FIFA World Cup boosted its sports betting by more than 46%, putting the total for online gambling up 40.1% year-on-year. Online casino games were also up significantly, by 36.9%, but internet poker fell 9.4% even with more online poker liquidity shared with France and Portugal. Cash games were down a whopping 18.1%, while tournament poker was down only 3.8%.

UKGC Orders Stop to Withdrawal Restrictions

The UK Gambling Commission has had a busy summer. The regulatory agency has been involved in a research project commissioned by GambleAware to further address problem gambling in the UK, and it urged the gaming industry to work together to improve standards.

UKGC Chairman William Moyes spoke out in favor of improved standards via a new strategy that emerged from the UKGC’s annual report. That strategy will focus on five priorities through 2021, including further preventing customer harm and ensuring that more charitable organizations benefit from gambling revenues, in addition to improving the UKGC regulatory framework along the way.

The latest message to come from the UKGC was in late August and pertained to online gaming operators preventing immediate withdrawals of winnings. The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority had already ruled against two betting operators in delayed withdrawals via unnecessary restrictions, and the UKGC urged other companies to remove any time restrictions for players who want to withdraw their winnings from a gambling site.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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