The Armenian parliament passed on Friday a set of new restrictions to gambling advertising. The law was approved by a vote of 63 to 24 abstentions in a second and final reading.
The new legislation restricts the advertisement of gambling by casinos, lotteries, bookmakers or other organizations that provide gaming, reports the ARKA News Agency. Gambling advertising is now only allowed in four-star and higher hotels, border checkpoints, companies’ websites, and the front of buildings offering gambling, while prohibited in any other places.
Deputy Minister of Finance Armen Hayrapetyan, who put the amendments forward explained that the restrictions return to those of 2020, a point in time in which advertising was only allowed through the four aforementioned ways. The Ministry of Finance serves as the Armenian gambling licensing authority.
The changes now approved were harshly criticized by advertising companies, which claim that about 60-70% of their income is generated through online gambling games. However, the Armenian government has countered that other estimates position this figure way below that, at about only 20-25%.
Civil Contract Party MP Tsovinar Vardanyan remarked that the bill is part of her party’s promise to fight gambling addiction in the country, reports Armenpress. According to the government, the number of bets made in 2020 increased 6 times when compared to pre-pandemic 2018, and young people are now getting addicted to gambling as well.
Babken Tunyan, head of the parliamentary committee on economic issues, warned in earlier debates on the proposed changes that about 3.2 trillion drams ($6.2 billion) worth of bets were made in the country from January to November 2021, while in comparison, the government’s revenues from last year amounted to 1.6 trillion drams ($3.1 billion).
Hayrapetyan defended the need of banning advertising across all media formats -including television, radio and press- by stating comparisons to international trends position Armenia at a very risky spot: gambling is increasing at a very fast pace, thus also leading to more problem gambling.
The Deputy Minister of Finance told the Armenian parliament that, in comparison to the UK, where one in six players becomes a gambler, the country’s index is “six times higher.” According to a study by the State Revenue Committee, wagering volumes are also well above those in neighboring countries.