Turkey has very strict laws on gambling. Though the largest religion in Turkey is Islam, the country still remains to be a secular state. However, the effects of the Islamic majority are still felt in various sectors of the economy. One of those areas which have been affected by this is the gambling segment. The government has adopted tight regulations to monitor and control gambling undertaking within the country, with those found guilty facing dire legal consequences.
This said, Turkey still runs gambling activities but through the state-owned agencies and parastatals. The legal process leading to the ban of most gambling activities started in the 1990s and by 2007 sufficient laws and regulations had been put into place to prohibit most forms of gambling.
Types of Legal and Illegal Gambling
The criminal code in Turkey defines gambling as any game played with the chief aim of gaining some rewards whether monetary or otherwise and whose profit or loss depends on chance. Any undertaking falling under this definition is termed illegal and, therefore, prohibited. The Turkish law, however, classifies roulette, slot, and pinball as special types of gambling. These are not covered by the Turkish Criminal code but are regulated by the Roulette, gaming machines, and Pinball law.
There are certain types of gambling which are legal in Turkey. These are defined as games of chance and are strictly run by Turkish government establishments and agencies. These games of chance include; Milli Piyango (The National Lottery), Sayisal Oyunlar (Number games), and Hemen-Kazan (Instant-win games). These games fall under the Ministry of Finance and are run by the National Lottery Administration.
Other types of legal gambling in Turkey include Sports Betting which is operated by Spor Toto Association and overseen by the Ministry of Sports. The Turkish Jockey Club operates Horse racing betting and is overseen by the Ministry of Agriculture
Stance on Offline Gambling
As it has earlier been stated, all gambling activities are carried out by the government agencies. The different offline legal gambling activities include the number games and the sweepstake instant games.
It can be seen that gambling is not entirely illegal in Turkey, but is fully controlled by the government through the various Turkish government agencies. The private sector can as well participate in gambling but only through a tendering process. The government agency in need of gambling services and supplies usually gazettes a tender document upon which private companies and individuals apply for consideration. The relevant licenses are granted upon award of the tender and are valid for the tender period only.
Stance on Online Gambling
Carrying out online gambling is prohibited in Turkey. The only exception granted by the Turkish government, is IDDAA, the state-owned gambling company. The regulations and laws controlling online gambling were passed in 2007 and have been in force up to date. The Turkish government has also taken measures to bar Turkish residents from accessing off-shore companies which operate internationally. The law targets individual players and those who are found engaging in prohibited online gambling face the risk of jail term and also fines. Their earnings from such gambling activities are also confiscated.
Apart from this, Turkey has gone to a deeper level of barring their citizens from accessing offshore betting websites by using Information Technology strategies. They do this by blacklisting and blocking IP addresses, domain blacklisting and instructing Internet Service Providers to redirect URL links of these betting sites to pages which give the users alerts that such websites are prohibited.
Stance on Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin Gambling
Currently, the position of the Turkish government on cryptocurrency is not much clear. The Central Bank of Turkey is yet to endorse any cryptocurrency as a legal tender in Turkey. Thus it can be said that the country is at the observation stage and the government is yet to issue its official position over the same.
This said, Turkish residents have access to cryptocurrency websites and there has been a considerable trade of the same currencies going on within the country. In fact, some companies like Miavita in Turkey accept bitcoins as forms of payment.
IDDAA, the state-owned company in charge of online gambling does not accept cryptocurrencies. Thus cryptocurrency betting though not illegal cannot be carried out since the only online gambling company authorized to offer online gambling services is IDDAA and does not accept cryptocurrencies as a means of payment.
Regulatory Authorities and Important Laws
Regulatory Authorities and Agencies
- National Lottery Administration (Milli Piyango Idaresi): This agency is in charge of overseeing all games of chance in Turkey.
- Spor Toto Association: This association is licensed by National Lotteries Administration to operate games of chance in Turkey
- Ministry of Agriculture: This ministry is in charge of regulating horse racing betting activities.
- Turkish Criminal Code: This law bans gambling and has sanctions for those who are found guilty of carrying out gambling activities.
- Misdemeanors Law: This law penalizes those who are caught participating in gambling and has confiscation procedures for those who operate illegal casinos.
- Games of Chance Decree: This law stipulates the roles of the National Lottery Administration agency and gives it the necessary legal authority to carry out its mandate.
- Horse Racing Laws: This law stipulates the licensing procedures and compliance requirements needed for those who would wish to carry out horse racing games.
- Law on Football and Other Sports Betting: This law regulates sports betting and has requirements for private licensing.
From the general outlook, it appears that Turkey has been quite successful in cracking down most forms of gambling. The use of sanctions, ICT measures such as IP blocking, and the establishment of strict laws on gambling have to a reasonable extent helped the government to achieve this end. However, Turkey has applied for European Union membership consideration and this may see it relax its laws on gambling to be in harmony with European Union requirements of free trade.