April 1, 2010 (CAP Newswire) – Back in 2006, the government in Turkey implemented laws that essentially banned Internet gambling. The regulations were much more strict than similar laws in the U.S.: Not only were banks and credit card companies forbidden to process online gambling transactions, but the law also made it clear that anyone providing online gambling services to Turkish citizens was subject to prosecution as a criminal.
Fast forward to about four years later, and an article in Today’s Zaman (an English-language website/news source focusing on Turkey) has a headline that says it all: “Illegal online gambling still a cash cow despite measures” (read it here).
Despite the laws, many online gambling brands still operate in Turkey. “For Betsson, a publicly listed Swedish online gambling company, this ban of online gambling in Turkey did not create much difficulty for the firm,” the article states. “For Betsson, circumventing filters and continuing to provide services to Turkish residents are risks worth taking: More than 26 percent of their revenues come from Turkey, according to a report by Goldman Sachs.”
So why does Betsson risk potential prosecution by the Turkish government in order to remain in Turkey? “There could be quite severe circumstances [for Betsson], but Turkey is too big of a chunk of their revenue. If they were to decide tomorrow to shut down their operations toward Turkish citizens, it would have a big effect on their earnings and their stock prices,” said Martin Arnell, an analyst for Carnegie Investment Bank in Stockholm in the article, which makes it clear that online gambling is booming in the Mediterranean country despite the ban.
Betsson argues that their actions in Turkey are “completely legal”, according to the article, but that isn’t the point. It seems that online gamblers are going to keep playing, no matter what the government tries to forbid. And that’s an important lesson for other countries like the U.S. that continue to struggle with whether online gambling should be fully legal (and taxed).