A controversial bill passed by the Kyrgyzstan parliament on June 22 legalising gambling in the country has been signed into law by Kyrgyz President, Sadyr Japarov. The legislation overturns a gambling ban that has been in effect in Kyrgyzstan since 2012.
The bill enables operators to open foreigner-only casinos in hotel and restaurant complexes for over 21 years old players, distancing the locations from residential buildings, schools, universities, hospitals etc. As well as casinos, slot halls, retail bookmakers and online casino games will also be legal, having also been banned since 2015.
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 per cent.
Protests against the bill had stalled progress through parliament as concerns were raised both by politicians and citizens in several public rallies. However, since the ban in 2012, numerous underground casinos have been uncovered by the authorities in Bishkek, Osh and other towns and cities. The President has insisted that the legalisation of gambling will help to tackle the economic hardship the country has faced for decades and especially in the post-pandemic recovery period.
Having been signed by the president the law is now set to come into force within the next six months, with the government currently establishing the regulations that will govern gambling in the country.