Uzbekistan Again Plans To Legalise Sports Betting

April 12, 2023
The President of Uzbekistan has instructed ministers to submit proposals on the legalisation of sports betting by the end of 2023, to bring to an end to more than 15 years of prohibition.


The President of Uzbekistan has instructed ministers to submit proposals on the legalisation of sports betting by the end of 2023, to bring to an end to more than 15 years of prohibition.

On Friday (April 7), President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed a new resolution, entitled "On additional measures for the comprehensive development of amateur and professional football", which gives the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, other ministries and the Football Association until the end of 2023 to formulate proposals to the Cabinet of Ministers for the legalisation of bookmaking.

The legalisation is expected to expand the football financing system "based on advanced foreign experience", the directive says.

In December 2019, the president signed a similar document aimed at supporting Uzbek football, which at that time targeted licensing betting business from 2021, but the plans have yet to be realised.

Officially, bookmakers have been banned in Uzbekistan since 2007, but interest in online betting grew significantly during the 2020 lockdown.

Foreign operators noticed the demand during the pandemic and organised the acceptance of black market bets from Uzbekistan, translating their websites into Uzbek and even accepting payments via local payment systems.

In addition, offline intermediaries for offshore betting firms have appeared in the country.

As officials noted at that time, the blocking of websites was ineffective, as local gamblers also travel abroad or use a virtual private network (VPN) to overcome online restrictions.

In February 2020, the deputy head of the Professional Football League, Diyor Imomkhojaev, said that the legalisation of bookmakers would help reduce the outflow of capital from Uzbekistan.

At that time the state budget was losing about $50m, due to online sweepstakes and the "grey market" of bookmakers, he claimed.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Aziz Abdukhakimov has also stated his public support for the re-legalisation of sports betting.

“Many players travel to other countries or spend money on foreign platforms. We are losing money. That is why we need to legalise bookmakers in our country and use a certain percentage of their profits for the development of domestic sports,” he said.

Potential licence holders already believe the Uzbek market is promising and several companies have begun preparing to open in the country. For example, in May 2021, Fonbet announced the recruitment of personnel in the capital Tashkent, and in August registered its trademark in Uzbekistan.

Gambling advisors 4H Agency described the development as “a significant milestone towards the development of the sports industry in Uzbekistan”.

“We are optimistic that the legalisation will lead to increased funding for football and stimulate job creation and revenue generation in the country,” the consultancy said.

According to the government’s 2019 plan, licences for bookmakers should have been issued by the Capital Market Development Agency two years ago, although its functions were later transferred to the Ministry of Finance.

By autumn 2021, government agencies were due to have prepared a draft law for regulating the industry.

However, in April of last year, the project was cancelled by presidential decree, since the legislative framework was not ready in time.

Additional reporting by Harrison Sayers.

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