The Armenian parliament has approved a first reading of amendments that would ban online gambling ads.
The new amendments to the Law "On Advertisement" prohibit online advertising of betting and gaming in the territory of Armenia and, on January 21, a majority of Armenian parliamentarians voted for the draft law in its first reading.
Most (56) backed an online advertisement ban, with eight not supporting the initiative and 16 more abstaining.
Under the draft law, the advertising of sports betting would be allowed in hotels of four stars and above and at border checkpoints, including the International Airport of Yerevan.
The amendments suggest that online gambling and betting rules are equated with those affecting land-based casinos, which are already subject to harsh advertising restrictions.
Casino advertisement restrictions, which were adopted in 2019, resulted in the shifting of marketing budgets online, deputy minister of finance Armen Hayrapetyan said during parliamentary discussions.
He noted that the transition online did not lead to a decrease in gambling among Armenian citizens and, therefore, argued there exists a grave need to adopt these new amendments.
"The total amount of bets in 2021, compared to 2018, increased by about six times, and the number of bets – by about three times. The turnover of online casinos in Armenia is commensurate with the expenditure side of the budget or 25-30 percent of GDP," he said.
Babken Tunyan, the head of the Parliamentary Commission on Economic Affairs, noted that from January to November 2021, the total amount of online bets placed in Armenia was equal to 3.2trn drams ($6.7bn).
"For comparison: the state budget revenue in 2021 amounted to about 1.6 trillion drams ($3.3bn)," he said during the discussions.
The vote sparked concern among representatives of local media outlets, who noted that most advertising company income (60-70 percent) is generated by gambling ads.
This conflicted with government figures, with Hayrapetyan stating in parliament that the revenue share is only around 20-25 percent.
Aram Vardevanyan, an MP from the "Armenia" bloc, supported the proposed amendments, but acknowledged that their adoption would lead to a big reduction in media advertising revenue.
"But there is an even more serious problem — gambling addiction, which affects our entire society," he said.