Turkey launches tender to open sports gambling industry

Turkey launches tender to open sports gambling industry

Turkey is looking to take its sports gambling operations to the next level. According to a report by the country’s Official Gazette, it has launched a tender that looks to find businesses to operate a centralized sports gambling system and risk management office for both fixed-odds and pari-mutuel betting on behalf of the state-owned SporToto service. Tenders can be submitted until February 11.

Turkey launches tender to open sports gambling industryAny company vying for the ten-year SporToto contract will have to boast a resume that includes running a retail betting network of at least 500 outlets, as the tender envisions some 6k points-of-sale across the country. The betting technology will have to be based in Ankara Province and the trading team will also have to set down roots on Turkish soil.

The government has lofty goals for its new betting venture, projecting first-year sales to come in around TRY17b (US$3.1b). Interested applicants must woo the government by explaining how much (or how little) of this revenue the operator expects to claim as its own share.

The tender comes less than a year after the country launched a major crackdown on gambling ahead of soccer’s World Cup last year. That crackdown saw “thousands” of alleged gambling houses raided across Turkey and resulted in a number of businesses being shut down by police. In Ankara, the country’s capital, 64 raids were conducted, leading to the arrest of 39 individuals.

Gambling is illegal in Turkey, except for SporToto and the Milli Piyango lottery. Both are operated by the state. Despite the ban, gamblers always find a way and reportedly wager around $11.4 billion annual through online gambling sites.

There was a time that gambling was an accepted practice in the Muslim country. However, things began to change when it banned casinos in 1998. Eight years later, online gambling operators not run by the state were also banned, even though most have found ways to work around the restrictions. The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has repeatedly asserted his distaste for the activity (even though he allows state-backed gambling) and has led efforts to ensure both land-based and online gambling does not find a footing.

Lately, Turkey has also cracked down on ancillary services, such as automatic teller machines and money remittance operations, that it believes helps facilitate gambling. Despite the apparent tightening of the screws, the new tender offering appears to be a sign that the country is looking, at some level, to expand the gambling industry.

One of the biggest exceptions to the gambling restrictions, other than the state-run options, is with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The area is controlled by Turkey; however, almost virtually run by a local government. That government has been moving toward allowing Turkish Cypriots to gamble in casinos in order to combat the rise of casinos that are being opened on the southern, Greek-controlled portion of the island.