Publication date: 24 Feb 2023
Turkmenistan is a very closed country with a huge number of prohibitions. Gambling is officially allowed, but the legislation is weak and almost non-existent. In this new 3SNET review we find out how to promote online betting and gambling in Turkmenistan.
How are betting and gambling regulated in Turkmenistan?
According to the Law on Licensing of Certain Types of Activities of 13 December 2019 in Turkmenistan, a license for “activities related to gambling and gaming for money” must be obtained in order to organize gambling activities.
The types of licensed gambling activities are specified in more detail in the List of Licensed Ministries and Departments:
- the organization and conduct of lotteries (except state lotteries);
- activities related to the organization of card and other gambling activities (bridge, poker, billiard, lotto, casino; birdfighting, dogfighting, bingo, bowling alley, sweepstakes, betting shops, hippodromes, slot machine halls).
The license is issued by the Ministry of Economy of Turkmenistan. The state fee for a Turkmen gambling license is 5,000 manat (approximately 105,000 roubles or $1,400); for a casino, the fee is 15,000 manat (317,000 roubles/$4,300). The document is valid for “at least three years”.
Among the various identifying and financial documents for obtaining a gambling license of Turkmenistan is required to specify “the actual location where the applicant intends to carry out this type of activity”. Thus, the legislation of Turkmenistan deals exclusively with the regulation of the land-based betting and gambling sector.
In addition, there is no information on the ministry’s website:
- how casinos and online bookmakers are regulated;
- where exactly (online or offline) to apply for a license;
- about any lists of companies that have obtained a gambling license.
“All of this points to the imperfection of local legislation: there is a law, but it is not applied in practice. In the meantime, however, it means that at the state level there is already an understanding of the need to regulate the field of gambling and betting. Most importantly, there is also a positive and supportive attitude towards gambling. The legalization of online casinos and betting shops in Turkmenistan is a matter of time,” said Alex Miller, a 3SNET analyst.
What gambling is allowed in Turkmenistan?
The Administrative Offences Code of Turkmenistan contains Article 357 “Violation of gambling rules”.
Gambling (cards, shell game and others) for money or valuables and the acceptance of bets by individuals can be fined up to one size of the base amount. Apparently, this is the penalty for gambling in establishments without a license.
A fine of two to seven size of the base amount is imposed for organizing gambling activities in violation of the rules set out in the legislation.
The tax rate for casinos and bookmakers is levied in accordance with article 172 of the Tax Code of Turkmenistan. Taxes are levied in a fixed amount of money: from 3 manat (for each square meter of gambling premises) to 370 manat (for each gaming table) per day.
There is no separate rate for tax collection from casinos or online betting.
How are websites being blocked in Turkmenistan?
The main internet provider is Turkmentelecom. The maximum speed is 2 Mbit per second (unlimited for 200 manats per month) in the city and 512 Kbit per second in the countryside. Furthermore, either legal entities or individuals who are individual entrepreneurs (with confirmation of IE registration) can connect the Internet. This may be an inaccuracy in the local wording, as they also connect home Internet in Turkmenistan.
The provider offers wi-fi service in public places: from 5 manats per hour to 150 manats per month for a single device. For foreigners it is 100 manat per week.
The provider’s website lists the addresses of Internet cafes where you can also surf the net: in February 2023, there are 5, all located in Ashgabat.
Mobile communications and mobile internet are also provided by the only operator, Altyn Asyr: from 50 MB (3 manats) to 20 Gb (200 manats).
- Turkmenistan has one of the most expensive Internet services in the world, averaging US $46.28 per month and ranking 116th (out of 220) in 2022, according to Cable.co.uk.
- Turkmenistan ranks 134th (out of 138 worldwide) in mobile internet speeds and 177th (out of 179) in broadband speeds, according to January 2023 Speedtest Global Index.
- According to the most optimistic data (from the media about Turkmenistan), 26% of the population uses the Internet, while only 1.2% of Turkmens access desired resources through VPNs.
Turkmenistan also leads in the anti-internet freedom index. According to the Press Freedom Index, the country ranks among the worst in the world at 177th out of 180.
Yet there is no official internet censorship or blocking system in Turkmenistan. There is no legal framework, no list of banned or blocked sites, and access to various resources is blocked without a court decision, warning or explanation. The main state body in charge of blocking websites is the Ministry for National Security of Turkmenistan.
As of the beginning of 2023, the following websites are inactive in Turkmenistan:
- Vkontakte, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (banned in Russia), Odnoklassniki;
- WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber messengers;
- Browsers Opera, Google Chrome are intermittently working;
- Various Google services, including Google Play, are unavailable.
- Since January 13, 2023 the ICQ messenger, which has become especially popular among the Turkmen people since 2022, is not downloadable in the country. In particular, the messenger’s technical support has clarified that “at the request of the Turkmen authorities” channels with new keys for VPN applications are being removed.
If you have any information on which other messengers, services and social networks are not working in Turkmenistan, write to us!
VPN services and anonymizers are also blocked in Turkmenistan. According to various media reports, “private companies are monitoring web traffic at the state’s request, analyzing texts in correspondence as far down as SMS”. After visiting a banned site, Turkmenistan residents may be summoned to law enforcement agencies, where they will be given a preventive talk or written explanation.
Periodic raids are carried out to detain specialists who offer installation and support for VPNs (average price: 200-300 manats per month). For instance, on 11 January 2023, Azatlyk radio reported, “employees of the Ministry of National Security (MNS) and the Interior Ministry arrested about 10 programmers involved in the creation of VPN codes. Their subsequent fate is unknown”.
In September 2022, mass inspections of schoolchildren’s phones for VPN use were carried out across the country. Parents of those children found with the apps were summoned to the MNS and “accused of irresponsible parenting”.
- According to media reports, in 2021, residents of Turkmenistan were made to swear on the Koran that they would not use a VPN when connecting to the Internet. Besides, one of the residents specified that she had to wait a year and a half for the connection.
How to attract an audience from Turkmenistan to casino and betting sites?
After reading the first part of our review, a disappointing conclusion can be drawn:
- very few Turkmens can get quality access to the Internet: expensive connections and low speeds, constant erratic blocking, persecution for using a VPN.
Is it worth spending time and money on promoting betting and gambling in Turkmenistan under such conditions?
Recall that due to the closed nature of the country it is impossible to obtain any official statistics. But here is what the media write, based on their own sources! According to Turkmen.News, “the sums in the Turkmen betting business run into tens of thousands of manats each month. …The local ‘cashier’ is a person who accepts bets and pays out winnings, making up to 150,000 manats each month. The bets in the area are small, but there are plenty of them. Most players bet 40-50 manat on the outcome of football matches, fights and other sporting events”. This is, of course, a land-based and completely shadow sector, but this information allows estimating the potential audience.
“At the same time, the authorities of Turkmenistan are focusing on a huge number of different blockages of political and opposition resources as well as restricting private communication between residents of the country. We can only assume that in these circumstances they can make a “loosening” for casino and bookmaker sites. Besides, gambling usually relaxes the atmosphere and distracts people from political and economic problems,” Alex Miller specifies.
There is an audience for gambling and betting in Turkmenistan:
- The state of Turkmenistan is located in Asia, with a population of about 6 million. Most of the inhabitants are Turkmens, there are large groups of Uzbeks and Russians.
- The main religion is Islam (up to 90%), Christians make up around 10%.
- The official currency is the manat (TMT). In February 2023, one manat is worth approximately 21 Russian roubles / 0.29 USD / 0.27 EUR.
- The official state language is Turkmen. Although, most official websites and services feature a Russian-language version.
Advertising rules for betting and gambling in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan’s Advertising Law prohibits any promotion of “traditional casino, electronic casino and online casino”. There are no exceptions, even for licensed gambling organizers.
How to generate betting and gambling creatives for Turkmenistan?
- Turkmenistan is a Muslim country, which affects customs and culture. Turkmenistan’s official authorities insist on the patriarchal nature of local life and support puritanical folk traditions.
- Be careful of anything that conflicts with the “Turkmen mentality”. Modesty and moderation are revered, whereas flamboyance and defiance (in videos and illustrations) may scare off parts of the audience.
- On the other hand, the standard of living in Turkmenistan is quite low, and many families are experiencing financial difficulties. Therefore, money prizes and any attributes of a luxurious life – expensive cars, accessories, mobile phones, houses with a swimming pool – are attractive.
- Turkmenistan is a closed country in the truest sense of the word: getting permission to travel abroad is extremely difficult. Emphasize the opportunity to “play like in the world’s best casinos”, show the potential gambler beautiful views of other countries and gambling establishments.
- There are all sorts of restrictions in the country. For example, there is a problem with cars: you may not drive a black car (only white), two-door cars, right-hand drive, tuning and toning are forbidden. So, when proposing a car as a prize, make it “right”. After all, no one will be motivated by a win which cannot be used!
What sports are popular in Turkmenistan?
- Football is very popular! The Turkmen football team participates in all significant tournaments, and local competitions are regularly held: Turkmenistan Cup and the AFC Asian Cup, Turkmenistan Championship among youth teams, Women’s Championship, Futsal League and the AFC Futsal Asian Cup.
- Turkmen are very keen on various types of wrestling: goresh (Turkmen national belt wrestling) and freestyle wrestling. There are also competitions in martial arts: kickboxing, taekwondo, karatedo, judo.
- The eSports federation, which says on its website that “eSports in Turkmenistan are a fast-growing form of modern sport”. Interestingly, Turkmentelecom, a local internet provider, provides the only special rate for playing SkyForge, Fortnite, Dota 2, FIFA Online 4, Call of Duty and other games for 20 manats per month.
- On the last Sunday in April, Turkmen Horse Day is celebrated. The holiday is marked by international show jumping tournaments, horse races and a horse-drawn marathon. In 2021, the president approved the country’s first online sweepstakes business for horse racing.
- Dogfighting is hardly a sport; it is officially banned in Turkmenistan. Nevertheless, they are hugely popular! On 1 February 2023, Azatlyk Radio reported that an event was staged near Turkmenabat, attracting more than 1,000 spectators. The fight lasted more than 6 hours, with many placing bets on the sweepstakes: from 50 to 1,000 manats. “Nowadays, dogfights are held on the outskirts of towns or villages rather than in busy, visible places. On the fringes of villages, the police do not intervene. The police do not come at all. The main requirement is that the competitions should take place away from the centre and without complaints from residents,” the radio website specifies.
Which payment methods work for Turkmenistan’s casinos and betting companies?
Turkmenistan is connected to the international Visa and Mastercard system: The State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of Turkmenistan issues VISA Classic Syýahat and MasterCard Standard Syýahat bank cards.
There is a local payment system, Altyn Asyr, which combines the local card systems Turkmenkart and MilliKart. Within this payment system, as of early 2019, more than 3 million bank cards were in circulation in Turkmenistan. However, these cards do not have the CVC code required for online payments.
Payments via WebMoney are accessible to residents of Turkmenistan, but it is not possible to top up the wallet with cash while withdrawals can only be made at one point. According to the service, there are only 7,500 WM users in the country.
Other e-wallets available in Turkmenistan are Payeer, Rysgal Pay (from local Rysgal bank).
The status of cryptocurrency in Turkmenistan is unknown; many services offer the purchase of crypto for residents of the country, but only for US dollars. However, the use of any currency other than the manat is officially forbidden.
Dollars (and any other currency) can be sold or exchanged for manat in Turkmenistan, but cannot be bought. When travelling abroad one must open a debit card, deposit there the sum in manats, and withdraw dollars at the exchange rate in the other country.
What sources of traffic are popular with the residents of Turkmenistan?
According to StatCounter service, the most popular among Turkmens in January 2023 were:
- Facebook* (34.88%) Pinterest (27.91%), YouTube (16.28%), Twitter, Reddit and Instagram* (6.98% each).
- Chrome (85.91%), Firefox (6.11%), Safari (2.9%) and Yandex (1.22%) browsers.
- mobile (75.56%) prevails over desktop 23.65%.
It should be reminded that most of these services are blocked, and statistics show those who were able to access them through a VPN (a maximum of 2% of the population).
*Facebook and Instagram are banned in Russia.
Against the backdrop of the ban on global brands, the Turkmen authorities are making efforts to develop and implement local instant messenger and social networking sites.
Altyn Asyr (registration only through the operator’s number) offers the tmchat messenger: you can write messages, send files and make calls (including with video). The app has 50,000 downloads (as of February 2023) and a score of 3.2 on the Google Play Store.
Turkmentelecom has developed the email service sanly.tm: you can read news and receive letters, although a search engine is “under development”.
Various Turkmen social networks have been presented in different years: Bi-Bi (bizbarde.com.tm) in 2018, YASHLYK.COM (2015) and Arzuw (2013). At the moment, all of them are inactive.
On 9 December 2022, Turkmenistan signed the first documents on the development of the National Digital Network, an internal network for information exchange. Hence, the country’s authorities intend to further engage in digitalization and the development of local services.
Turkmenistan is a complicated country in every sense. There are too many bans and very poor internet, with the use of VPNs being condemned by the authorities. But despite all the restrictions, locals find opportunities and actively place bets. At the moment, all gambling is concentrated offline, but that’s only because there are few online options. Another good sign is that advertisers are looking for Turkmen traffic and waiting for new users on casino and betting sites. The 3SNET network has prepared the best gambling and betting offers for you for Turkmenistan!
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