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Gambling and Betting in Turkish Law

Authors: Hatice Ekici Tağa, Burak Özdağıstanli, Sümeyye Uçar, Öykü Su Sabancı

Gambling is defined as “games that are performed for profit and in which profit and loss depend on luck” in the Turkish Penal Code and is regulated within the scope of crimes against the community and public morality. It is seen that the definition of gambling has been made to cover all types of games and sports in which profit and loss depends on luck. On the other hand, “betting”, which is not defined explicitly in any legislation, is a system that profits third parties based on their predictions of an organization’s - not predetermined but possible - results.

The Constitution of the Republic of Turkey regulates that the government shall take necessary measures to protect teenagers from gambling and similar bad habits. As a result, gambling and betting are considered a field that is principally prohibited under Turkish legislation and can only be carried out with government control.

In Turkey, gambling and betting are not regulated together; and permits and sanctions for them are set out in different legislations. Firstly, it is seen that gambling and providing an environment and opportunity for gambling are regulated separately in different laws. Providing an environment and opportunity for gambling is regulated as a crime in the Turkish Criminal Code, and the sanction of imprisonment and judicial fine is set forth. Committing this crime by using information systems also takes part in the same code as an aggravated crime. Gambling is regulated as a crime in the Misdemeanor Law and within this context, an administrative fine is imposed for those who gamble. In addition to these, it is also regulated that places where gambling occurs will be ceased and desisted.

Betting is regulated within the scope of the Law on Arranging Betting and Games of Chance in Football and Other Sports Competitions (“Betting Law”). Pursuant to Article 5 of the Betting Law, those who play fixed-odds betting and joint-betting, or games of chance based on sports events without a license, or who provide environment and opportunity for them to be played, will be subject to sanctions.

Under Turkish law, there are three types of bets that are legal to be organized and played under the license granted by laws:

  1. Sports betting

  2. Horse Racing betting

  3. Games of chance (e.g., lottery, numerical games)

Sports betting games and games of chance are regulated under the Betting Law and imprisonment and judicial fines will apply to those who provide an environment for sports betting without a license. Likewise, similar sanctions are set forth for those who organizes horse racing betting in violation of clauses regulated under the Law on Horse Racing. For legal entities, sanctions are applied as security measures.

Currently in Turkey, license for the games of chance and horse racing has been given to Turkey Wealth Fund for 49 years. Following that, Turkey Wealth Fund authorized the Sisal Şans for 10 years in terms of organizing games of chance and issuing license to dealers; and authorized the Turkey Jockey Club for 49 years in terms of organizing horse racing betting games and issuing license to dealers. Also, the only authorized institution to organize sports betting games and to issue license to dealers is Spor Toto Organization.

Additionally, playing games that are based on skill and luck with game tools and equipment against a cashier or game machines in a virtual environment and advertisements related to these are completely prohibited with an explicit regulation.

Essentially, for mentioned illegal activities that nowadays occur mostly on the internet, the sanction is to remove the specific illegal content and when this is not possible, to block the access to the relevant website. In practice, it is sometimes seen that the relevant institutions consider computer and phone games with gambling and/or betting content as illegal. However, the profit and loss of virtual items that do not have any monetary value in the real world cannot be considered as gambling or betting considering their definitions and regulations.

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