Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority and Lottery are doing everything in their power to purge the country of online casinos.
A recent report released by Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority (TIB) and published in local newspapers shows just how adamant authorities are about their rules against online casinos. The document says officials have blocked 110 internet gambling sites over a five-year period.
The National Lottery has been even more aggressive in its war against internet gambling in Turkey. The authority has taken action against 440 websites in the past five years, demanding authorities to block them. The TIB has analyzed all of these cases and eventually blocked the ones it found to be operating illegally.
Rules are made to be broken
A gateway to the Middle East, Turkey has always been strict about casino games and all forms of gambling in general. Over a decade ago, the country was home to almost 80 casinos. But all land-based gambling venues were closed at the end of the 90s, when authorities instated a ban on casinos.
Despite the gambling ban, some online gambling sites do accept players from Turkey:
Of course, this measure did not solve any ethical problems officials may have had against games of chance. In fact, it had the opposite effect of encouraging illegal casino games to appear, offline and online.
As technology evolved, it became quite common for players to just go to a website and access any of the available real-money casino games available there, even though they were fully aware of the fact that Turkish gambling laws prohibited them.
Anyone with access to a computer – including underage users – could easily choose from a number of foreign-based betting sites. This also exposes players to countless unlicensed websites or scams, as well as to problem gambling, since there are no player protection policies.
Next step: blocking websites
Prohibiting casino games was just the first step. The real war against gambling didn’t break out until 2007, when the new laws became even more strict and officials became merciless. That was when the telecommunication authority got its own separate body to deal exclusively with online gambling.
In November that year, the new telecommunications body started its activity in full force, blocking players’ access to illegal websites. Meanwhile, the authority is working closely with the National Lottery – one of the only two legal forms of gambling in Turkey, along with sports betting – which has proved to be very active and dedicated to the cause.
In 2009, the Lottery notified the TIB and asked it to close down 93 websites. That number grew to 119 in 2010, then saw a slight drop to 110, then to 88 during the following two years. Last year, the authority found 93 illegal online gambling sites in Turkey and, again, demanded that they be blocked.
The few legal options for Turkish gamblers
For those who know where to look, gambling is still available in the country. But the only legal options in Turkey are the National Lottery and the state-run sportsbook, IDDAA. The betting company is the only Turkish entity legally allowed to provide internet gambling services under the current laws. All other online casinos, poker sites or betting sites were outlawed in 2007.
So how come local players are still able to play blackjack via the internet? Technically, it is not forbidden for banks to authorize and allow transactions between residents of Turkey and companies operating online gambling sites remotely. So unless authorities have already taken steps to block a certain website, there is little they can do to stop players from accessing it and spending their earnings on slots, roulette or any other casino games.
Of course, local players who do go to illegal online gambling sites risk being fined with up to 500,000 Turkish lira. The minimum fine is $55,000 and the price can go up to almost $250,000! That’s a lot of money for a small sin, but many people risk it anyway, as it’s easy to get away with it if you play in the privacy of your own home.
Clearly, the current government frowns upon gambling and is willing to do everything to stop it. And with such fines, it’s safer for customers to obey the regulations, even though they might find them unreasonable.