Turkey to Launch Sweeping Crackdown to Eliminate Illegal Gambling

Posted on: July 4, 2017, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: July 4, 2017, 01:03h.

The Turkish government is launching a two-year offensive that aims to wipe out illegal gambling in the country.

Turkey to Initiate Gambling Crack Down
Turkish president Recep Erdogan’s plans to eliminate illegal gambling are  less alarming than his attempts to erode democracy and undermine the rule of law. (Image: Associated French Press)

Overseen by the Interior and Justice Ministries in coordination with the Revenues Department and the Police Department, phase one of the initiative will see the establishment of an anti-gambling task force, hell-bent on targeting illegal gambling dens, internet cafes and websites.

The team will be headed a special prosecutor and composed of members of Turkey’s financial crimes unit (MASAK), banking regulation agency (BDDK) and communication technologies authority (BTK), according to Turkish pro-government, English-language newspaper, Daily Sabah.  

Casinos were banned in Turkey in 1998 and online casinos in 2006, leaving legal gambling participation limited to the national lottery ad the state-run SporToto sports betting outfit.

Crackdown on Digital Currencies

Under proposed new rules, the BDDK will initiate measures to prevent financial institutions from processing transactions related to online gambling, It will also put the squeeze on the use of digital currencies, such as bitcoin, for use in gambling, although the Daily Sabah did not elaborate on how it planned to achieve this.

Search engines will be monitored and citizens who access illegal sites will be sent a chilling text message warning them the government is watching. All gambling advertising will be banned and affiliate sites providing links to illegal gambling will be shut down.

Meanwhile, gambling operators and employees will have their incomes seized, and houses where gambling has taken place will be temporarily requisitioned by the government.

There will also be large fines for internet cafes that allow their customers to access gambling sites.

Authoritarian Measures

Recep Erdogan, Turkey’s authoritarian president, has tightened his grip on the country since a failed military coup a year ago. Scores of judges, educators and journalists have been arrested since the attempted takeover, prompting accusations that Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to silence the press, undermine the rule of law and muzzle his critics.

One thing he can’t control, however, are the casinos on the other side of Turkey’s north-eastern border with Georgia.

In 2012, Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan signed what became known as the Trabzon Declaration, which permitted new freedom of movement across their borders. Cue: a daily stampede of Turks into Georgia’s Dead Sea resort of Batumi.

This so irked the hardline conservative Erdogan that he asked former Georgian president, Bidzina Ivanishvili, to close them down, but was rebuffed.

The Turkish ambassador to Batumi has reported that Turkish wives are plaguing the ambassador’s office with phone calls demanding to know where their husbands are.