Armenia’s government has approved plans to create a registry of high-rolling gamblers, because the country’s supply of trust is apparently running even lower than its capital reserves.
On Thursday, the Armenian government approved a proposal introduced by the nation’s deputy finance minister that will create a database of gamblers who spend over AMD 1m (US $2,060) on any wager, be it land-based or online. Gambling operators will be required to report these transactions and keep copies of gamblers’ identity documents.
The new measure, which will take effect on June 1, is ostensibly aimed at reducing opportunities for money laundering, although one can’t shake the suspicion that the law’s true intent is curbing gambling activity, based on the natural human impulse to get your name on as few government lists as possible.
Sandwiched between Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, Armenia has a full spectrum of gambling options, including a state-run lottery, a few large land-based casinos, numerous small gaming halls and a handful of approved online gambling operators. However, the government has been making life more difficult for gambling operators in recent years.
In laws that took effect at the beginning of 2014, Armenia banned casinos from its capital Yerevan, confining the activity to a few designated geographic territories – mainly resort areas including Tsaghkadzor, Sevan, Jermuk, Meghri – and at the Zvartnots International Airport. This step was justified as a means of reducing the potential harms of gambling activity on Armenia’s citizens.
In late 2015, Armenia passed laws banning online gambling sites from advertising in the country, with the only exceptions being ads at land-based gaming venues and four-star hotels. Again, minimizing social harms was cited as the primary reason for the ban.
In late 2016, the government proposed a fivefold hike in annual licensing fees for gambling operators, from the current AMD 100m to AMD 500m ($1.03m). Deputy Finance Minister Karen Tamazyan justified the hike by saying gambling operators’ profits had been “increasing at rapid rates” while the government’s take hadn’t been boosted since 2006.
Tamazyan claimed that Armenia’s online gambling operators had seen their revenue jump from AMD 44b in 2014 to AMD 108b ($222.5m) through the first 11 months of 2016. When another legislator pointed out that rising revenue didn’t necessarily indicate profitability, Tamazyan claimed online operators’ profits had risen by 5% to 20% during this time frame, although she declined to cite her sources for these stats.