Specialists of the CASEXE studio will explain how to launch a casino startup here, why it is considered one of the most undervalued, and which country to choose for a successful operation.
It is quite promising for establishing and scaling an iGaming business.
The region includes Ukraine, the Baltic countries, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Armenia. Entertainment for money is legal in all jurisdictions, but with a slight catch.
For example, in Kazakhstan, the offline sector is available only to private businesses, while in Ukraine, it is possible to own both online and land-based locations.
The growth of the local niche took place in the 1990s. Each country has chosen its way of legalisation, focusing on cultural characteristics, the well-being of citizens, the economic environment, and the state of infrastructure.
Most major operators started their journey with offline gambling halls, which were opened in hotel and restaurant complexes. Many of them were built a long time ago but got a modern appearance after reconstruction and modernisation.
In the early 2000s, there was a boom in the sportsbook and casino sector thanks to:
In 2004, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania became members of the EU. These countries have been preparing for it for several years, modifying and adapting their legal framework to the alliance’s standards.
EU membership was a turning point for the entire casino industry in the Baltic region. It has demonstrated how effectively the state and the private sector can interact. Other jurisdictions also have followed such an example.
Thus, many experts stated that when drafting legislation, the Ukrainian authorities were guided by the successful experience of Lithuania.
In 2024, gambling will be officially allowed in all countries of Eastern Europe.
In the growth of the market, the role of the government remains crucial. Its main tasks include:
Eastern Europe has a well-developed labour market and modern IT infrastructure. This encourages casino brands to register, develop, and scale their businesses in this territory.
Implementation of an iGaming project here is beneficial due to access to valuable personnel. These are programmers, QA engineers, marketers, web designers, and other highly qualified specialists. Besides, the wages and tax deductions are lower compared to Western European countries, and this fact attracts international companies.
The region has enormous potential for development. Local authorities support the sector in every possible way, providing various benefits and grants. A lot of attention is also paid to the creation of a safe gaming environment and the fight against ludomania, dishonest advertising, money laundering, etc.
The government legalised the casino and sportsbook sector in July 2020. Before this, it was banned for more than 10 years and worked in a grey area.
The legislation in the niche was carefully drafted. The regulator allowed both online and offline entertainment and submitted clear rules for all market participants, such as operators, players, and CRGL.
The main emphasis is laid on responsible gambling.
Business owners are required to:
CRGL plans to connect all entrepreneurs who manage land-based and digital projects to the state monitoring system. This way, the Commission will be able to make sure that operators work legally, pay taxes on time, and much more.
To conduct the business legitimately, it is necessary to obtain a licence. The document is valid for 5 years. Its cost depends on the type of activity (gaming site, poker room, or bookmaker’s office) and the size of the minimum wage at the beginning of the year.
Verification of casino visitors is carried out using certified program components, data from the Diia state portal, and the Bank ID software package.
After the full-scale invasion, the development of the gambling sector slowed down. To help businesses, the government offered to temporarily switch to a simplified taxation system and pay only 2% of revenues. The benefit was valid for more than a year, and 80% of industry companies took advantage of it.
The legalisation of cryptocurrency in the summer of 2022 became the impetus for the growth of the niche. The authorities allowed operators to use this tool as a payment system but with the mandatory payment of all levies and fees.
Positive changes include the introduction of the Open Banking concept. Businesses gain access to a unified financial environment with favourable tariff plans and reduced commissions.
It is considered one of the main gaming centres in Eastern Europe. Brands are happy to open work, launch new digital casinos, and scale their projects here.
The region outperforms other territories due to its strong labour market and active government support. It is here that many software vendors, hosting providers, as well as recruiting and consulting firms that work in the niche have opened their representative offices.
The sector has been regulated since 2005 after the adoption of the Law on the organisation of lotteries, gambling, and profitable entertainment. The Ministry of Finance deals with the registration and issuance of licences. It also controls the work of operators and monitors the timely payment of taxes and fees.
To launch a gaming site, entrepreneurs must have an offline location with slot machines. An alternative option is to sign a cooperation agreement with the owner of a land-based establishment, which is situated near large hotels in the capital and the coastal zone of the Black Sea.
Advantages of working in Georgia:
After the request’s approval, operators are required to transfer €10,500 to the state treasury every quarter, as well as to pay taxes on GGR and withdrawn capital in accordance with the accepted tariff rates.
From July 1, 2024, new restrictions in the casino field will come into force. A key change is raising the age limit to 25 years for citizens of the country and to 18 years for foreigners. The government also plans to increase taxes and completely forbid the promotion of entertainment for money.
The Gambling Act is the main document that regulates the niche. It determines certification rules, requirements for entrepreneurs, fiscal stakes, and other aspects.
All types of betting are allowed in the region, but the organisation of lotteries is considered an exclusive right of the Eesti Loto monopolist.
The government does not limit the number of licences. Such documents are valid for 5 years and can be extended to different types of gambling. When launching a virtual casino, entrepreneurs should pay a starting fee of €51,200, and for a bookmaker’s office, the price is €35,200. The application processing costs €3,200.
The successful development of the niche in Estonia is determined by the following factors:
The government has no plans to amend the legislation in the near future. This is a guarantee for those entrepreneurs who want to open a startup in Estonia and are interested in long-term investment.
All types of entertainment for money, except for offline and online raffles, are given over to private businesses. The sector is regulated by the Law on Gambling and Lotteries.
Operators can obtain 2 types of permits:
Project owners can apply for a general licence to provide services in land-based and digital locations simultaneously. Such a document will cost €427,000. The price of a certificate that allows entrepreneurs to manage an iGaming platform is €200,000.
Officially, a permit is issued only for 5 years, and it can be renewed an unlimited number of times. For the extension, it is necessary to pay €37,000. It is also important to fill out an electronic application on the IAUI local regulator website. There is no need to undergo additional checks and KYC procedures with regard to key persons.
Latvia is a country where a casino business can be easily scaled.
Based on a single licence, operators may launch an iGaming platform, launch the production of live content, and organise the acceptance of bids on bingo and keno. This is one of the reasons why there are a huge number of live studios in Latvia.
Such brands as Evolution Gaming, Ezugi, Lucky Streak, Betgames.tv, and other providers of entertainment with real croupiers have their representative offices in the region.
The tax rate here is fixed. This is 10% of the GGR regardless of the type of activity.
The Lithuanian market showed rapid growth in 2019–2023 and recovered from the negative consequences of the pandemic much faster than others.
The local government allows:
Most often, entrepreneurs apply for a combined licence. It allows them to legally work in online and offline sectors. The cost of the document is €260,000. The certificate gives operators the right to place 3 card rooms and 10 slot machines in real locations. With each new unit of equipment, the price of the permit increases.
To file an application, it is necessary to:
The industry’s regulation is the responsibility of the Gaming Control Authority. It is currently focused on tightening requirements for payment verification and advertising of entertainment for money. The age limit is set at 21 years, but the government plans to revise it soon.
The fiscal burden on business is 13% of GGR. Entrepreneurs must pay taxes on the withdrawn capital and dividends, as well as contributions to social funds for hired employees.
The sportsbook and casino industry is developing unevenly.
Only the offline sector exists here, but it is also limited to 2 gambling zones. Operators can own land-based locations, bookmakers’ offices, and Internet cafes only in 2 resort areas: Kapchagay and the Schuchinsky district.
In 2021, the authorities announced the legalisation of the iGaming market, but so far, the draft law is only under development. Investors and private businesses that see the enormous potential of the Kazakhstani casino niche are in favour of updating the regulatory framework.
Public funds that are concerned about the spread of ludomania in the region are against it. Local players are considered one of the most gambling people in the world, so the problem is quite acute here.
The key advantage of the region is its attractive fiscal regime:
Entrepreneurs can take advantage of tax holidays, benefits, and discounts. The government also issues investment licences with special fiscal treatment.
Although gambling in Kazakhstan is at an early stage of development, companies from Asia and the Middle East are happy to put their money into it.
In Armenia, it is allowed to own casinos, but only the certified ones. There are also restrictions on advertising, the opening of land-based locations and bookmaker’s offices, the age of players, etc.
The authorities are doing their best to promote responsible gambling principles, introducing high fines for non-compliance with security and payment verification rules.
Offline entertainment is allowed in special zones in the following cities:
The launch of an iGaming startup is available throughout the country (there is also no need to own a land-based location or a betting shop to do that). It is possible to submit an application on the regulator’s website after registering a legal entity and paying the state fee.
Since 2022, players can make deposits on iGaming platforms only through a bank transfer. The innovation was adopted to increase control over account replenishments and reduce the risks related to ludomania. The authorities also completely banned advertising of casino entertainment both on the Internet and external information media.
This region is a profitable market for creating and scaling iGaming startups.
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