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Turkey - online gambling regulations

Online gambling regulations, laws and taxes in Turkey

Gambling in all its many shapes and forms can be seen in every country across the globe. Online gambling has in recent years become the preferred method of gambling due to its convenience and easy accessibility. Although many countries seem to make the most of the gambling market and even gain from it, there are others which make it clear that this global sensation is not welcomed.

Turkey is an interesting country when it comes to gambling, as it is seen as a secular state but is heavily influenced by Islam. Islam is especially seen in the country’s laws and regulations when it comes to gambling. Unfortunately for the authorities, there are many citizens who still try to access online casinos.

In this guide, we take a look at the laws, regulations and all things relevant to the matter of online gambling and how players can be affected when participating in online gambling.

Online gambling regulations in Turkey

History and laws of online gambling in Turkey

It’s odd to think that a country that was once home to a thriving casino industry has turned around and shut the doors on most forms of online gambling. In recent years the only forms of gambling allowed are state-regulated enterprises.

Throughout the ’90s and the early years of the 2000s, there was a string of legislation regarding gambling. Land-based gambling had already been outlawed in 1998 after the murder in 1996 of Omer Lutfu Topal, also known as the Casino King. The main reason for the ban on the casino industry was due to accusations of it being a front for money-laundering schemes.

Online gambling only truly reached popularity in later years, and as such citizens flocked towards online casinos. The entertainment form was short-lived as it too was banned in 2007. This did not stop citizens from trying to gain access to online casinos hosted by foreign operators, which forced Turkey to tighten its control over unregulated online gambling in 2013.

Interestingly enough, Turkey is one of the very few countries to focus on catching individual players rather than operators. Under their new legislation, large fines and prison sentences are handed out to those caught in the act of online gambling. Players taking part in gambling on illegal platforms will have to pay large fines of between 100k and 500k Turkish Lira when caught. Under the new legislation, Turkey’s Telecommunications Authority has also been awarded responsibility for blocking illegal websites, while the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency has to prevent any banking services and transactions made for the purpose of online gambling.

By law, the only legal forms of gambling in the country include horse race betting, sports betting offered by state-owned Spor Toto (the only legal sports betting game in the country IDDAA) and then, of course, the national lottery by Milli Piyango. The latter was privatised in 2015 when ERG-Ahlatci bought it for $2.75 billion according to sources.

Turkey goes on an online gambling crackdown

Early in 2018, Turkey started on their mission to hunt down illegal gambling operators, especially those doing so online. According to news reports, there was a series of raids carried out by over 1,000 police officers across nine provinces in Turkey, in an operation to target illegal online sports betting operators. The raids were launched by the country’s cyber-crime unit, and by 13 February 2018, there were already 100 individuals in custody.

The crackdown on illegal gambling is said to last for two years, starting in July 2017. About this time the authorities also passed new restrictions on the use of automated teller machines (ATM’s). This was brought about after they figured out that online gambling operators had taxi drivers make regular pit stops at ATM’s in an attempt to transfer money between gambling sites and Turkish bettors. That’s not all.

The authorities also put new restrictions on mobile money transfers. Users can now make only two transfers per day and are required to give more detailed user identification with each transaction.

Are online gambling winnings taxable in Turkey?

It has already been stated that any form of gambling apart from state-approved ones are considered to be illegal. In most countries, if something is illegal there is generally no tax applied as it is a given that most would abide by the law. However, in Turkey, online gambling winnings are still taxable. According to their regulations, any cash or prize in kind won through gambling activities online or abroad is considered a “gain without consideration”. These types of funds or prizes are generally subjected to inheritance tax. Thus, any winnings made online should still be legally declared and a player should file an inheritance tax declaration within one month of receiving the prize. Depending on the amount of the prize there can be up to 10% inheritance tax payable on it.

Is online gambling legal in Turkey?

In Turkey, all forms of gambling, including online gambling not conducted by the state, are considered illegal. In most cases, this would not put a curb on interest from foreign operators, but with the current crackdown raid on operators as well as all individuals involved in online gambling, there are only a limited number of online gambling operators still willing to allow players from Turkey to play on their sites.

As a player, nothing can stop you from participating in online gambling on illegal sites, but at the end of the day, you have to accept the risks that come with it. There are a number of Turkish residents who still partake in online gambling, but they know that since 2013 they face serious fines if ever caught. Many of these players make use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) for extra safety and anonymity, although with the latest restrictions and rules regarding payments both online and at ATM’s, this could soon become a nearly impossible mission. The government is still targeting operators but they are not oblivious to players. If you are caught you can face large fines or even imprisonment.

Online gambling is illegal and those participating in the act are doing so at their own risk.

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