In 2006, several changes were made to Turkish gambling laws in an attempt to stamp out online gambling in the country. The new regulation made illegal for gambling companies to target Turkish citizens with their products. The regulation also went after banks, trying to prevent them from processing any transactions related to internet gambling.
Despite these strict regulations, online gambling in Turkey is thriving. While there are no legally-licensed internet gambling websites operating out of the country, foreign operators continue to target Turkish players, evading web filters to provide Turkish players with access to online games and betting services.
Betsson, for example, receives more than 26% of their revenue from Turkey, according to a report published by Goldman Sachs. Betsson specifically targets Turkish players, which is a blatant violation of Turkish laws. Despite this, they face little risk, simply because Betsson runs its operation out of Malta, where Turkish authorities have absolutely no jurisdiction. In fact, Betsson claims foul on the part of Turkey, arguing that their restrictive gambling laws are in breach of EU regulations. Unless Betsson were to establish a physical presence inside Turkey, the Turkish government can do very little to stop them.
This is demonstrated by an incident in 2008, when two employees of the UK-based bookmaker Sportingbet were arrested in Turkey while traveling through the country on holiday. Because Sportingbet was offering internet betting in Turkey without permission, authorities took advantage of the fact the employees were suddenly (if temporarily) within their jurisdiction, and they decided to enforce their anti-gambling law. The pair was eventually released, but Sportingbet soon backed out of Turkey because of the incident.
Given the popularity of football and sports betting in Turkey, it is difficult to see this problem becoming resolved anytime soon. The EU is currently struggling with several member nations about gambling laws, and it’s just too early in the game to predict the score. In the meantime, Turkish players will continue to gamble online unabated.