Azerbaijan will punish illegal gambling operators and gamers with heavy fines and prison sentences.
Current Azerbaijani gambling laws forbid all gambling activities in the country except sports betting and lotteries. All currently functioning betting shops and lottery outlets are subject to heavy licensing procedures and must pay taxes to the government.
Attaining such licenses and operating a legal gambling business requires a lot of paperwork, not to mention deep pockets. It is only natural that underground gambling business is thriving in the country. This refers to both land-based and online casinos in Azerbaijan.
The increase in numbers of illegal gambling facilities has ultimately led to millions being lost by the state coffers. And it was only a matter of time until the country’s lawmakers addressed the issue. Members of parliament suggested using the country’s criminal code to prosecute illegal gambling operators.
Chingiz Ganizade, member of parliamentary committee on legal politics and state affairs, revealed that besides the changes to gambling laws, Azerbaijani parliament will also consider a change to the country’s criminal code in connection of illegal gambling activities.
What punishment can await illegal gambling operators?
According to the MP, the proposed law amendments will ensure that organizers and operators of illegal gambling establishments will face up to 2 years of forced labor or up to 3 years behind bars. However, if there will be repeated counts of such activities on behalf of a group of people, the prison sentence can go up to 6 years.
The law amendment also prescribes punishment for persons running lotteries and sports betting shops, who have not received prescribed accreditation and have no legal right to work at otherwise fully legal establishment.
As for the participants of illegal gambling activities, they will be punished by fines up to $800 and confiscation of gambling equipment as well as other valuables used as stake in an illegal game.
The new law amendments are still being discussed by the parliament, but it is almost certain they will go through very soon. Real prison sentences for playing a little blackjack sounds severe, but it surely is a way to battle the growing problem of illegal gambling in Azerbaijan.