The president of Uzbekistan is on board with a plan that would allow for regulated sports betting in the country by the year 2021. And while Uzbek officials are excited by the prospects of fresh revenue raised by the effort, they’ll be using the money to fund a national soccer program.
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has been leading the country since 2016, expressed his support for regulated sports betting in a decree outlining exactly what he hoped to accomplish with the plan. More than anything, he wants sports betting cash to be used to raise Uzbekistan’s profile in the world of international football. He would also like to introduce a program of video assistant referees in youth soccer leagues.
These goal are motivated by a gnawing sense among the people of Uzbekistan that they simply cannot compete on the stage of international soccer. According to a report on CalvinAyre.com, Uzbekistan has not qualified for a World Cup since the country gained its independence in 1991. Furthermore, the country’s citizens considered it to be extremely humiliating that their team was beaten by the North Korean squad 4-2 in the World Cup qualifiers.
The Uzbekistan national team’s luck is so bad that, despite finishing 7-0-1 in the qualifying rounds for the recent Asia Cup, they wound up finishing 10th overall.
Uzbekistan’s plan to use sports betting revenue to fund soccer programs is relatively light on details, but the goals are both clear and ambitious. If they can get the team to the World Cup, regulated sports betting in Uzbekistan will be considered a major success.