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Uzbekistan Legalises Online Betting and Lotteries

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President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev has signed a decree on April 19 titled “On Measures to Improve the Regulation of the Organization and Conduct of Lotteries and Risk-Based Games in the Republic of Uzbekistan”. The document abolishes the ban starting from January 1, 2025, and introduces a legal framework for the organisation of risk-based games online and betting activities.

The issue of legalising betting activities has been a long-standing topic in Uzbekistan. In December 2019, the president signed a decree to legalise bookmakers, but this decision was revised in April 2022. In April 2023, the head of state instructed the development of a regulatory framework for betting activities.

The National Agency for Advanced Projects (NAAP), the authorised state body for regulating and licensing activities in this sector, provided insights on the necessity of introducing state regulation in the gambling sector in Uzbekistan. The agency emphasised the need to prevent illegal gambling businesses, protect players’ rights and generate additional income for the state budget.

The president’s decree aims to introduce advanced foreign experience and modern technologies in regulating the organisation of risk-based games and lotteries to increase investment attractiveness, tourist potential and attract additional funds to the country.

The measures outlined in the decree include the creation of legal foundations for the legalisation of activities related to risk-based games online, betting activities, and lotteries, implementation of mechanisms to protect citizens’ rights and interests, prevention of gambling addiction and the generation of additional state budget revenue.

Starting from January 1, 2025, a taxation system will be introduced for license holders, where organisers of online games, betting activities and lotteries will pay a turnover tax. This system aims to prevent the concealment of taxable revenue and is expected to generate additional tax revenues for the state budget.

Overall, the implementation of the decree is intended to establish a reliable foundation for the legal regulation of activities related to organising risk-based games online, betting activities and lotteries in Uzbekistan, protect citizens’ interests, combat gambling addiction and provide additional sources of income for the state budget.

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INTEGRATED RESORTS FUEL ECONOMY, LOCAL TOURISM – PAGCOR

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The country’s integrated resorts and casinos remain as one of the main growth drivers of local tourism, in the process creating a multiplier effect across various industries, according to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

This was emphasized by Ma. Vina Claudette Oca, PAGCOR Assistant Vice President for Gaming Licensing and Development Department, during a panel discussion at the 1st Philippine Tourism and Hotel Investment Summit held over the weekend.

Oca, one of the panelists on the topic, “Navigating Challenges and Opportunities for Casino Hotels in the Philippines”, said casinos are just a small component of the many attractions offered by integrated resorts in the country.

She said that this is because PAGCOR mandates all integrated resorts to offer more non-gaming attractions and resort facilities, including dining and shopping destinations.

“In fact, they are only allowed to allocate 7.5% of their facility’s total floor area to gaming,” she said. “The rest of the floor area is allocated for non-gaming facilities such as hotel rooms, retail areas, dining and other attractions.”

Ms. Oca added that currently, integrated casinos employ over 20,000 Filipinos, helping provide livelihood opportunities to locals.

Meanwhile, close to 80% of PAGCOR’s revenues from regulated gaming are remitted to the government to fund significant socio-civic projects, she said.

Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco also graced the 1st Philippine Tourism and Hotel Investment Summit as keynote speaker. The event was held at the New World Makati Hotel last June 21.

The event was co-presented by the Department of Tourism’s attached agency, Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority along with PAGCOR and the Tourism Promotions Board as government agency sponsors.

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Fintechs in Kazakhstan Raises Concerns Over Proposed Gambling Regulation

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Fintech companies in Kazakhstan are urging greater scrutiny of a proposed law intended to regulate betting transactions in the country.

The submitted legislation, currently in its final reading, would form a monopoly entity, the Unified Accounting System (UAS), the firms said in a joint press release. The UAS would be used to determine market participants, process payments, maintain a single “electronic wallet” and make settlements with clients. A critical concern is that it could charge up to 1.5% in commissions on all market transactions, within a market where regulated transactions exceed KZT1.2tn ($2.6bn) annually.

Irina Davidenko, a spokesperson for Kazakhstan’s payments industry, commented: “The proposed legislation would be a step backwards for Kazakhstan, harming competition in the country’s vital payments sector and signaling to the outside world that necessary business reform is being driven by shadowy interests, rather than what’s right for industries and consumers.”

The proposal, partly billed as a public health move against problem gambling, resembles a previous initiative, the Betting Accounting Centre (BAC). It was shelved in 2021 after a scandal involving a deputy minister who was dismissed for accepting bribes from BAC lobbyists, according to the press release.

The lack of transparency on the UAS structure and ownership as outlined in the legislation is another aspect of the change that is seen by critics as troubling.

The reintroduction of a UAS model occurred as late as the second reading of the legislation. If passed by parliament, it will become law without the comprehensive impact analysis and scrutiny typical for such significant regulatory change.

Observers argue the new regulation duplicates existing regulatory functions already managed by Kazakh state bodies and was proposed without the cooperation of the National Bank of Kazakhstan. The central bank has previously developed its own reform proposal that avoids introducing a monopolistic entity.

Opponents further contend that the regulation could cause “significant economic damage”. National Bank of Kazakhstan representatives and the payments industry have sounded alarm bells, but the issues have not been adequately addressed, the press release added.

The concerned fintech and payment companies want the legislation to be reconsidered. They are advocating for it to be sent back to the lower house of the legislature for a full regulatory impact analysis and thorough examination to ensure that it does not adversely affect industry or the economy.

Ilya Efimenko, commercial director of the payment organisation PayDala, said: “I appeal to the Senators, who need to know the true purpose of why the UAS has made a comeback in the bill.

“This is a re-emergence of the ‘Betting Accounting Center’ (BAC), a strikingly similar entity that was withdrawn before, and behind which, as the deputy from the Amanat party Elnur Beisenbayev said, are the powerful forces of ‘Old Kazakhstan.’

“Before our eyes, a monopolist, a private operator, is being created. The emergence of monopolies such as the UAS threatens the principles of a Fair Kazakhstan. Now everything is being done to break the financial system of Kazakhstan, recognized by experts as one of the best in Central Asia.”

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Chinese Embassy Urges Philippines to Ban POGOs

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The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines has urged the Philippine government to ban its offshore gaming industry, claiming that the “vast majority” of Chinese citizens involved in their operations are victims.

In an official statement attributed to a spokesperson, the embassy also denied any involvement in the Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators (POGO) industry after uniforms of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Chinese People’s Armed Police Force were discovered during a raid on a POGO compound in Pampanga earlier this month.

“We appeal to the Philippines to ban POGO at an early date so as to root out this social ill. And we firmly oppose any baseless accusation and smearing against China in connection with POGO,” the statement said.

The statement went on to say, “Chinese law prohibits all forms of gambling. The Chinese government strictly cracks down on Chinese citizens engaging in gambling business abroad including POGO. Ample evidence shows that POGO breeds serious crimes such as kidnapping for ransom, human trafficking and murder. POGO is detrimental to both Philippine and Chinese interests and images as well as China-Philippines relations.

“In recent years, the Chinese and Philippine law enforcement agencies have maintained close communication and cooperation and conducted multiple joint operations to bring down cross-border gambling and telecom fraud. Since 2018, nearly 3000 Chinese citizens implicated in the cases have been repatriated with joint efforts of both sides. In the past year alone, China has assisted the Philippines in shutting down five POGO hubs and repatriated nearly 1000 Chinese citizens.

“The vast majority of the Chinese citizens involved in these cases are victims of the Philippine offshore gambling industry. The Chinese government is committed to protecting the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.”

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