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25 Oct 2012

Our own Monako

Business of gambling in Belarus

Honest, profitable and safe - so the Belarusian government officials and businessmen see gambling business in Belarus. To support it, the Association of Development of Gambling Business was created and it means that the government has no objection to this kind of leisure activity in Belarus.

While in neighboring states gambling is either prohibited or strictly limited, Belarus continues to practice "fair and open system with strict responsibility." How is it going to be achieved, entrepreneurs and government officials spoke on October 9 at a press conference for Belarusian and foreign journalists.

"Develop -  and then form a stable legal framework for doing business in area of gambling". - Yuri Chebotar, a co-chairman of the Association of Development of Gambling Business explains . To achieve this, the organization intends to engage with the Parliament, the Ministry of Taxation, Ministry of Sport and Tourism, and the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

The association is planning to develop a code of ethics for its members. "We will support only those entities in the gambling business, which ensure fair play" - promised Yuri  Chebotar.

Everything is under control.

The development of gambling business in Belarus does not mean increasing number of casinos, Vladimir Mukvich, a representative from Ministry of Taxations, assured. As he said, "everything is under control."

Since gambling is moved out from jurisdiction of the Ministry of Sports under jurisdiction of the Ministry of Taxation the number of licensees for gambling activities decreased from 205 to 116 subjects, the number of gambling clubs with slot machines - from 648 to 406. The decrease was mainly due to the arcades (from 418 to 260), as the number of  Belarus casino was 33, and is the same as in 2011.

However, if we measure the gambling market by equipment, during last few years the number is the same: 9.6 thousand slot machines, casino tables and betting offices. Revenue is also on the same level, taking into account devaluation of Belarusian roubles: 70 billion BYR - in 2010, 108.2 billion BYR - in 2011, 153.3 billion BYR – during 8 months of this year. Only 0.02% of the total tax revenue in Belarus, businessmen and officials say, when they want to emphasize that we are "not Las Vegas."

Now in Belarus applies a flat rate tax on  gambling equipment, but Ministry of Taxation dreams  about  "more just" system that takes into account real incomesfrom gambling. So the special computer system should solve the problem , providing total control over turnover in the gambling business.

It is being done for long  time but because of change of contractors  its implementation is delayed. At the moment works only a prototype of the  system that is connected to a thousand slot machines. That had to issue a presidential decree to shift the terms of the widespread implementation of the system.

Presidential Decree number 416 of 24 September 2012 is amending previous regulations on gambling and postpones ban on the use of slot machines, cash registers bookmakers and betting without connecting to the system from 1 July 2012 to 1 December 2013. "That means, until 2014 the tax system will not change", - said Vladimir Mukvich.

Protect the clients

"In order to protect individuals from gambling" presidential decree introduces a mechanism of self-limitation of participation in gambling. This means that from 1 January 2013, any gambler, who wants to quit, can go to any gambling establishment asking not to let him in for six months and up to three years. Through the database of the Ministry of Taxation this information will be distributed to  all gambling establishments of the country, and the client  will be "banned" by the deadline.

"But if such a statement would be brought by his wife, worried about her husband's addiction?" - journalists asked.

"If we know that customer, if we understand that he is on the road to addiction, we will go to meet their relatives, but it is a conflict with the law", - outlined the dilemma Yuri Chebotar. Because what if, "a man is not an addicted gambler, just someone from the family did not like his  hobby?" the co-chairman suggested. Then it's "speculation right," he concluded.

A representative of the Ministry of Taxation authority added that such a mechanism will be possible only through recognizing disability of the person. "We can not allow one person to restrict rights of another one" - came out in defense of basic human rights in Belarus Vladimir Mukvich.

“Quite tricky type of leisure activity.

Statistics about gambling among Belarusians does not yet exist, perhaps due to the fact that gambling is not our national characteristic and  there are not that much people who are really addicted to gambling. As a matter of fact, the casinos in Belarus have been created specifically for foreign tourists. According to observations by Yuri Cebotarev, gambling clientele by 50% are foreigners: Russians, Turks, Italians, etc.

However negative public opinion about gambling in society has already developed. For example, reports  that have been published recently about the Minsk district of Kamennaya Gorka (Stone Hill), which, according to the residents, becomes a hot spot for criminals. Reason: suspicious card games clubs  in apartment buildings  and  nearby - prostitutes.

There is also a September arrest of the owner of the Minsk entertainment center "Dankoff Club" Yuri Dankov – he was charged for "the use of prostitution and to create conditions for prostitution” by officials."It should be understood as  that the casinos and brothels are really close? Responding to the provocative question, the members of Association reminded about presumption of innocence.

"This case is currently under investigation – said about detention of  his colleague Yuri  Chebotar. - Formal charges have not yet presented. The person has not been yet convicted. Brothel it be or not, the court will decide. We can not express our opinions, because the definition of actions yet to be given. As far as we see there is nothing connected to gambling"

"Dankoff Club", by the way, is not a member of the Association of Development of Gambling Business in Belarus.

A representative of the Ministry of Taxation has advised "not to mix together prostitution, drug abuse and gambling." At the same time, he acknowledged that gambling is very specific type of entertainment . And that's why it would be made "the most stringent requirements."

Therefore, "the state does not set a goal of turning this country into a Las Vegas", but being  Monaco, we do not mind. “We aim to create the conditions  world class gambling in this country, - Vladimir Mukvich said. – People who comes over to play at Belarus casinos, should not feel worse comparing with Monaco or other popular gambling destinations.