Uzbekistan withdraws support for sportsbook legalisation 

Further troubles loom in the CIS region as Shavkat Mirziyoyev, President of Uzbekistan, has withdrawn his support for a decree to establish a national framework legalising betting activities.   

Last week, local media reported that Mirziyoyev would no longer back plans for Uzbekistan to launch its first legislative framework establishing federal laws for ‘sportsbook and sweepstake’ services.

Back in December 2019, Mirziyoyev – the leader of O’ZLIDEP, Uzbekistan’s Liberal Party – announced that he would support his party’s pledge to legalise sports betting and sweepstakes under strict government controls. 

In the decision, Mirziyoyev and O’ZLIDEP deputies had consulted figureheads of the Muslim community, which accounts for 88% of Uzbekistan’s population.

Initial plans were to directly tie sports betting and sweepstake tax revenues with the development of Uzbekistan’s professional football league, as the O’ZLIDEP party had set the bold ambition for the country to qualify for its first FIFA World Cup since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Though never formally published, the O’ZLIDEP party is reported to have drafted plans to create ‘licensed betting zones’ in the Northern city of Muynak that would allow for customers to access betting shops within designated resorts and shopping malls.

Two years following its draft approval, hopes of Uzbekistan launching its sports betting framework had dwindled as the government failed to meet the 1 January 2022 launch deadline.

The Office of President Mirziyoyev notified national media that the decree was no longer valid. The government stated that it had chosen a different path, focusing on tackling remote black market operators that were reported to have garnered $350 million in revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic.

2022 CIS regulatory developments have seen the governments of Armenia and Georgia sanction a toughening of laws on gambling taxation, advertising and licensing.

Meanwhile, the launch of Ukraine’s federal gambling laws was interrupted by the Russian invasion as all political resources are focused on the ongoing conflict.

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