Turkey proposes harsh fines for online gamblers

turkey-legislation-online-gambling-sitesTurkey is proposing new legislation to put teeth into its fight against illegal online gambling, including stiff financial penalties for gamblers who bet with the sites. Turkey has long campaigned against online gambling, passing laws expressly outlawing the activity in 2007. The uncertainty surrounding the market led Sportingbet to sell its Turkish-facing Superbahis operation to GVC Holdings in 2011 and the new proposed measures could take a serious bite out of GVC’s future earnings.

On Wednesday, Turkish newspaper Hurriyet revealed that parliamentarians were intent on targeting not just operators, but affiliates, financial institutions, media companies and even players. Under the draft law’s terms, agents of the online sites who reside in Turkey would face prison sentences of several years. Similar sentences would await those who assist the sites in processing payments, while media companies that carry advertisements for the sites would face sentences of one to three years.

It will be up to the Turkish Banking Regulation and Supervising Agency to ensure that online gambling firms cannot process payments by debit cards or credit cards. The Telecommunication Communications Agency would be responsible for imposing IP-blocking of online sites.

Players, meanwhile, would face fines of between 100k-500k Turkish lira (US $55k to $278k). In a country with a median annual income of less than $6k, this proposal marks a serious escalation of Turkey’s fight against unauthorized sites. Just as Greece’s war against online gambling sites was viewed as a way to boost the value of betting monopoly OPAP, Turkey is planning to privatize its sports betting lottery this summer, and eliminating the lottery’s online competition might help Turkey realize the $10b sale price it’s seeking.