Kyrgyz parliament votes to legalise casinos and igaming for foreigners

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Kyrgyzstan’s legislature has voted to re-legalise land-based gambling and launch online casinos for the first time, though all offerings will only be available to foreign players.

The bill “On Gambling in the Kyrgyz Republic” – passed on its third reading – would legalise a wide range of forms of gambling. As well as casinos, slot halls and retail bookmakers – which had all been legal in the past before casinos were banned in 2012 and the latter two banned in 2015 – online casino games will also be legal.

However, all gambling will only be available to foreign players.

Land-based casinos must only be set up in restaurants or hotel complexes. The restaurant must have at least 100 seats, and the hotel must have at least 20 rooms. Slot halls, meanwhile, must be in separate rooms or buildings from any other type of business activity.

Casinos located in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek must have at least 10 gaming tables, while those elsewhere must have at least five. Slot halls must contain at least 30 machines.

Casinos and slot halls must also have a currency exchange bureau licensed by the National Bank of Kyrgyzstan, as well as a number of security measures in place.

Use of credit cards and loans to gamble is prohibited, except for playing land-based slots.

Slot machines must also have a return to player (RTP) of at least 75%.

A body will be set up by the country’s Cabinet of Ministers to regulate gambling. The Cabinet will also set licence fees.

During consideration by the Committee on Law and Order, MP Dastan Bekeshev proposed removing provisions for online gambling from the bill, but this was rejected. Bekeshev also proposed banning online gambling outside of gambling establishments, but this was rejected as well.

Passed by the legislature, the bill will now go to the president, Sadyr Japarov.
If the bill is signed into law, it will come into force six months after its publication. The Cabinet will establish regulations for gambling within one month of publication.