Armenia Tightens Gaming Regulations to Stop Gambling Addiction
Armenia plans to implement policies to combat gambling addiction. The administration approved a bill which will tighten regulations on gambling in the country, confining it to 4 regulated sectors and banning gambling throughout the rest of the country.
Vice Speaker of Parliament Alen Simonyan introduced the bill to the parliament, though both houses of the Armenian parliament must approve the bill before it becomes law. At the moment, details about the bill remain vague, though Alen Simonyan gave some information in his introduction of the bill.
Simonyan said, “It is recommended to organize it [gambling] only in the four settlements where casinos are allowed to operate. Participating in organized games will only be allowed after validating age.”
The second-ranking figure in the Armenian legislature said those who were found illegally gambling would be banned from all legal gaming establishments. Though Simonyan did not say exactly how long such bans would last, it is possible he was speaking of a lifetime ban from casinos — must like a card counting blacklists work elsewhere.
Armenian Gambling Addiction
Armenia’s main goal is to limit citizens’ exposure to gambling, so it is not on every street corner. That means implementing gaming zones, much like the Russian Federation has instituted these past 10 years.
The Vice Speaker of Parliament said, “The bill is aimed at enhancing regulatory restrictions of the gambling sector, which will enable making infatuation with gambling a lot more difficult.”
Implementation involves restricting gambling geographically, but also making certain forms of gambling illegal. In describing which activities might be banned, Simonyan described certain forms of gambling he found problematic: “The current regulations allow gambling through automated devices and bookmaking machines in the entire territory of the country.”
Alen Simonyan did not give specific details on the types of gaming machines which would be targeted. “Automated devices” could mean slot machines or fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which are considered such a scourge in the United Kingdom.
Given the fact nearby Georgia implemented a ban on slot machines, the ban could involve the closure of casino gaming in local hotels and resorts, or it could mean raids on illegal slots parlors. Of course, automated devices might refer to ATM machines in casinos, like the Australian government once restricted near pokies row.
The reference to “bookmaking machines” suggests that fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) will be banned. Whether the ban will involve a new push to police online sportsbooks accessed by the desktop computers and smartphones is not known.
Sports betting is a particular focus by the Armenian authorities. Like many other nations, sporting events are particularly attractive to casual gamblers. Association football (soccer), basketball, volleyball, and hockey are popular sports in Armenia, so bookmakers take advantage of their popularity to offer lines on those sports. Football, of course, is by far the most popular sport for bettors.
In 2016, Digitain updated Armenia’s largest legal sports betting website, TotoGaming, which at the time supplied 28,000 live betting events per month. TotoGaming supports 65 sports involving a total of 7,000 leagues around the globe.
Armenian Ministry of Finance
The Armenian Ministry of Finance oversees legal gambling in the country. Traditionally, Armenian authorities have tried to police most forms of gambling in the small Caucasus Mountain country. Armenia has a relatively low per capita income and authorities traditionally have been concerned about gambling’s effect on the poor.
At the same time, a certain amount of gambling in the population centers has been allowed, hoping to draw in revenues from tourist and wealthy residents. The Ministry of Finance has licensed five land-based casinos over the years. Each casino operator pays $20,000 in taxes and license fees per year, so the ministry collects only $100,000 a year in gambling taxes.
Four Armenian Gaming Zones
The five casinos which operate legally in Armenia are Shangri Las: Yerevan Casino and Pharaon Casino in Yerevan, National Casino in Parakar, Senator Golden Palace Hotel & Casino in Tsaghkadzor, and Joy Casino in Argavand.
Since Yerevan, Parakar, Tsaghkadzor, and Argavand are the four cities were Armenia has licensed gaming sites, those would be the four authorized gaming regions Alen Simonyan referred to in his speech before parliament.