Uzbekistan Lifts 17-Year Gambling Ban: Legalizes iGaming

A 17-year gambling ban is lifted in Uzbekistan, opening the door for iGaming regulation. Analysis of potential growth in the economy.

The Republic of Uzbekistan has announced a significant shift in its stance on gambling, ending a 17-year prohibition on all forms of gambling within the Central Asian nation. 

The New Gambling Regime

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has signed an order establishing a new gambling regime in 2025 which will regulate lotteries, risk-based games, online gambling, and sports betting.

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Under the new system, which will take effect from January 1, 2025, Uzbekistan will establish a system to manage and regulate internet risk games and sports betting. The Prospective Projects National Agency (NAPP) has been appointed to manage the regime’s implementation, which will include monitoring market activity and granting permits.

The regime will permit individuals over the age of 18, both residents and non-residents, to participate in licensed lotteries, internet games, and sports betting activities. This is a significant reversal from the prior regulations since former President Islam Karimov banned all types of iGaming activities in 2007.

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Legalisation Efforts Underway Since 2019

The decision to introduce a gambling regime has been in the pipeline since 2019, with President Mirziyoyev’s office working towards ending the prohibition. Previous plans for a standalone sports betting regime were halted in 2021 due to uncertainties regarding oversight responsibilities. Subsequently, the President ordered the drafting of a comprehensive decree covering all forms of gambling.

In the interim period, Uzbek sports clubs were permitted to secure sponsorships from foreign betting companies as part of efforts to modernize sports, in line with a decree issued in 2021. Moving forward, entities organizing gambling activities will be subject to a 4% tax on revenue, after deducting paid winnings and refunded stakes, starting from 2025. However, individual winnings from these activities will be exempt from income tax.

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NAPP Strengthens Laws to Combat Money Laundering

To ensure the successful implementation of the regime, NAPP has been tasked with collaborating with the Department for Combating Economic Crimes to revise and strengthen relevant laws and practices related to preventing financial crimes and money laundering.

4H Agency has expressed optimism about Uzbekistan’s potential to emerge as a vibrant marketplace within the CIS region. With over 90% of its population, totalling 35 million people, under the age of 60 and a digital connectivity rate of 72%, Uzbekistan presents promising prospects for economic growth and development.

According to Ilya Machavariani, CEO and Senior Partner of 4H Agency, efforts towards legalisation in Uzbekistan have been ongoing since 2019, albeit have yet to be successful thus far. Various governmental bodies, including the National Capital Markets Agency, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Sports, and now the National Agency for Promising Projects, have been involved in these endeavours.

Machavariani highlights particular interest in the potential legalisation of online casino verticals, hinted at by the term ‘risk-based games,’ which were previously discouraged by the government. The forthcoming presentation of licensing conditions mandated by a recent Presidential Decree will shed light on the trajectory of this legalisation attempt.

As such, stakeholders eagerly await further developments to determine whether Uzbekistan’s efforts towards legalisation will yield positive outcomes, marking a significant milestone in the nation’s regulatory landscape.

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