Ukraine, India, and the Netherlands: What Countries Are Opening Up Online Gambling Markets In 2020?

By  //  February 9, 2021

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Online gambling is a lucrative business. One that is estimated to cost well over $59 billion in the US and $127 worldwide. With a flurry of US states on the path to legalize sports betting, it is fitting to learn what countries around the world are doing in this market.

Most experts concur that 2020 has been an amazing year for online gambling. As millions of people — including gamblers — were under the lockdown orders, most businesses that took the regular economic activities online prospered.

The online gambling industry was not an exception, growing at over 10% the previous year. Understandably, the new online casinos list in 2020 grew quite a lot as well.

Not only that, the industry is projected to enter several new markets. What these markets are and what does this mean for the industry overall? Hop on this 5-minute read to find out.

The Netherlands

For several years now, this country was having a serious debate among the legislative circles as to whether they should legalize gambling. The reason being, despite the government issuing no licenses to online casinos, the Dutch population still gambled online.

They used websites registered elsewhere, most notably in the casino haven Curacao, and the neighboring UK. Some legislators stated they effectively had no means of controlling this as there were no legal mechanisms for blocking websites from being displayed for the Dutch gamblers.

In 2019, they gave up and decided to legalize gambling in the country so that the government gets at least a bit of control over what’s going on on the market.

The Netherlands was projected to enter the legal online gambling market back in 2020, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they were forced to postpone the process.

The legislators decided to prolong the deadline once again from March 2021 to September 2021 as the pandemic and the lockdowns associated with it prevented the authorities to work out the specifics of this market and possible means for regulating it.

The licensing process began in 2020, and now businesses who hold a valid license will have to wait another 6 months before they can use them.

Surprisingly enough, this doesn’t draw much criticism. Business leaders were quoted saying that it’s in their best interest to wait a bit to ensure the regulators create a fair and competitive market for all.

India

India is known as tough on gambling, many Asian countries are. However, since it’s effectively a federation of states, not a monolith country, there are several states that decided to legalize gambling in some form.

Despite gambling being illegal in the whole of India, Goa, Daman, and Sikkim allow it and profit immensely from the flow of international tourists coming to the region.

Though India proper remains firm with its position on gambling, yet another state decided to join in on the fun and legalize gambling. Not long ago, in January of this year, the Indian state of Meghalaya approved a bill that would effectively legalize online gambling.

Meghalaya is a small state jammed between Bhutan and Bangladesh with not a whole lot going for it. Perhaps this legalization will drive tourists from the neighboring countries or China to the state. Meghalaya officials also commented that the tax revenue and revenue from issuing licenses will benefit the state’s economy greatly.

It’s unclear when exactly the bill will be fully in effect, but the path towards legalization is set in stone.

Ukraine

This country situated on the outskirts of Europe is apparently trying to pull its economy from the Soviet past right to the level of its European neighbors.

There were a lot of talks about total liberalization of the economy with the recent change of leadership in the country, but the legalization of gambling and online gambling, in particular, is their first step towards increasing budget gains.

Another reason for making gambling activities legal could be the fact that they were happening either way. As was the case with the Netherlands, people gambled even though the activity was banned and there was little to no political will or regulatory mechanisms to crack down on it. Hence, Ukraine is yet another country that wisely decided if you can’t beat them, join them.

New legislation that was introduced and ratified in 2020 legalizes all forms of gambling in the country with some notable exceptions.

Online gambling companies have nothing to fear as access to the 40 million market will cost them pennies on the dollar taking into account Ukraine’s currency’s low exchange rate to USD and EUR. It’s the big players that may be outplayed by the locals.

Nepotism seems to be a tradition in post-Soviet countries, and this bill was no exception. In a controversial decision, it allows building casinos only in existing 5-star hotels with a hard limit set for each city. This provoked criticism from the industry leaders as you can easily see it’s not in the best traditions of free trade.

Could Uzbekistan be coming along?

Another post-Soviet country, Uzbekistan, may be on the path to the legalization of online gambling. Last year, the country’s president enacted legislation that would fully legalize sports betting. There were talks about considering casino legalization, but it’s unclear whether there was any resolution as of yet.

This is quite an unprecedented step in Central Asia as Uzbekistan is a majority Muslim country and quite an authoritarian one at that.

The fact that its ruler decided to give sports betting a green light and was considering casino legalization may be a sign that even the countries that stick to religion and traditions are starting to open up to the idea of economic liberalization.

What 2021 holds for online gambling?

With no end to the lockdowns in sight and millions stuck in their homes, 2021 is going to be a good year for all businesses that operate online.

Online gambling is predicted to grow by 11% or more this year. Perhaps even more countries are going to follow the example of the Netherlands, India, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan and start thinking about casino legalization. After all, every economy is in the red these days and a new revenue stream to the budget is much needed.

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