Belarus is widely known throughout the planet even though it is one of the youngest independent countries in Europe. Amongst its most notable tourist attractions are the WWII-inspired Museum of the Great Patriotic War, antique areas dominated by trees, magnificent barricades, Stalinist Empire architecture, the Red Church (Church of Saints Simon and Helena), KGB Headquarters and the multi-styled ancient castle complexes in the towns of Nesvizh and Mir.
On top of all the historical and tourist attractions in the country, Belarus is commonly referred to as “the post-Soviet Las Vegas”. It provides a gambling industry with an excellent climate, abundant activities, and world-class facilities.
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Belarus.
BigZ Princess Casino (and BigZZ Princess Slot Hall)
Casino Admiral 1
Casino Admiral 2
Casino Admiral – Gomel
Casino Palace – Club Zio Pepe
Casino Royal – Minsk
Casino Tornado Minsk
Casino XO Club Minsk
Club-Casino Belaya Vezha
Diamond Princess Casino
Elegance Princess Casino
Hotel Yubileiny and Casino Yubileinoye
Juravinca Princess Casino
Kazino Viktoriya Cherri (Victoria Cherry Casino)
Mirage Casino – Minsk
Nemiga Princess Casino
Poker Club Casino AMG
Shangri-La Casino Minsk
The first appearance and trigger of gambling in Belarus are quite impossible to determine, just as the case of Albania. First, the history of Belarus is spotted with authoritative power being transferred from one authority to another: the Russian Empire, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Principality of Polotsk, and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Before the territory gained independence from Russia and became a Soviet Socialist Republic a diverse number of times, gambling — though strictly prohibited — had begun to emerge. It started with the creation of the very first casino by a high-born businessman named Geydukevich in the 19th century. The Minsk-based casino was more of an exclusive house for high-class citizens to meet, dine, and gamble. There were many local card games available for players to savor but, unfortunately, the casino was closed in the 1940s.
Nonetheless, gambling witnessed a nationwide growth after Belarus eventually gained independence from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on August 25, 1991. On October 16 of the same year, the Belarusian Council of Ministers released a legislation that partially dipped its fingers into gambling. Following the legislation, the authorities started giving out licences to potential casino operators — greatly after Aleksandr Grigoryevich Lukashenko, the first and only President of Belarus, ultimately approved the legislation.
Accordingly, the independence of Belarus was acknowledged on December 26, 1991, and the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus was established on March 15, 1994. Hence, the gambling industry was introduced to the world, business people started developing an interest, and the sector was seeing a gradual maturation throughout the regions.
Moving on, the case of Russia’s gambling industry was also presented (i.e. the creation of special gambling zones) but the Belarusian authorities foresaw how bad that would affect the industry. In Russia, gambling is outrageously segregated and that is one of the reasons why gambling is quite popular in Belarus – because wealthy Russians and Russian players prefer to visit Belarus to enjoy casino gambling. Similarly, Ukrainian players also explore Belarusian casinos, since Ukraine has a gambling sector identical to Russia’s.
Further, a Presidential Decree — Decree No. 9 — was approved on January 10, 2005, aimed at the execution of gambling activities within the Belarusian territory. For one, gambling businesses were to be subjected to higher taxes and more rigid tax regulations by the Tax and Duties Ministry of the Republic of Belarus.
In contrast, Uladzimir Mukvich — the Deputy Minister of the Tax and Duties Ministry — said, in late-2017, that the Ministry is planning to reduce casino and slot machine taxes in 2018. As of May 2018, nothing has happened yet.
In addition to the tax policy, casino players were to verify their identity before being able to claim their winnings. The Decree was primarily passed to fight the recurring cases of money laundering in the country at the time but other segments were touched as well.
Pertaining the licensing and regulations, the Sports and Tourism Ministry of the Republic of Belarus issue both legal entities and capable individuals special permits before they can operate any gambling facility. Licensing is subjected to Regulation No. 1377 that was passed by the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus on January 20, 2003, a Presidential Decree that was approved on July 14 of the same year, and Decree 450 of September 1, 2010.
According to these pieces of legislation, there are only four types of legal gambling facilities in Belarus: casinos, halls with slot machines, sweepstakes/lotteries, and bookmakers. Hence, only slot machines, table games, sports betting, and sweepstakes are subject to taxes. The facility is also subjected to taxes that are calculated per month.
Casinos pay from €2,500 to €4,000 per gaming table depending on the number of games and position of the gaming table. Taxes on slot machines range from €80 to €100 while bookmakers and totes pay from €130 to €1,500.
Pertaining the gambling facilities, Hotel Yubileiny opened the first present-day casino in 1992: Casino Yubileinoye. Prior to the casino, most shopping malls in the 1980s had slot machines installed to attract more customers.
One of the earliest casinos to ever open in Belarus was Dankoff Club Casino. As seen on Google, the casino is permanently closed but the precise exit date is not disclosed. The last post on the casino’s Facebook page was published on January 3, 2017 — but, in contrast, the website dankoffclub.by is still active as of March 2018. However, the casino offered nine table games and 30 slot machines but was widely criticized for having a substandard design, doubtful service standards, and unprofessional employees.
Other casinos came in late as Dankoff Club Casino and Casino Yubileinoye operated exclusively in Belarus for a good number of years. The third casino to open is quite impossible to state because the websites of all Belarusian casinos lack the required information.
Today, there are many casinos spread across the 80,153 square mile, landlocked country and the most interesting part is the polyopoly. Unlike most countries where only a handful of gambling companies or entrepreneurs own and operate the great percentage of the gambling industry, Belarusian casinos are owned and operated by a very diverse set of operators.
First, casino gambling is a legal form of gambling in Belarus and has been so for a while. Second, there are 30 casinos spread throughout the length and breadth of the country. And apart from casino gambling, sports betting, sweepstakes, and slot machine halls are also legal. Lastly, the Taxes and Duties Ministry of the Republic of Belarus (originally, the Minsk City Executive Committee; previously, the Sports and Tourism Ministry of the Republic of Belarus) oversees all gambling activities and facilities.
The country, as mentioned in the introduction, is marked with exceptional tourist attractions and sites that attract visitors from around the world. Like most European casinos, Belarusian casinos are constructed with elegance in mind; from the opulent interior decor and exterior design to the high-class employees and transparent rules, everything related to the gambling climate has a classy, nice, and friendly setting to it. Also, most of the players are Russians who — after the Russian authorities limited gambling to Krasnodar, Primorsky, Kaliningrad, and Altai regions in 2009 — have decided to relish casino games over the weekend by visiting their neighbor.
However, most casinos in Belarus are called VIP clubs or gaming halls. In actuality, they qualify as casinos for they offer gaming machines and table games to a diverse range of customers. And on that note, foreigners should note that table games are quite minuscule in Belarus; some establishments do not have one while most have nothing more than 15.
Most casinos in Belarus are situated in the capital city of Belarus, Minsk, which also has the greatest population. This is mainly because Minsk is one of the few modern cities in Belarus. Other casinos are spread across other regions of the country:
Meanwhile, Diamond Princess Casino is the flagship casino in Belarus. While other casinos are not far behind, Diamond Princess Casino’s crown is still very intact. The casino is situated in the heart of Minsk and provides players with a wide range of over 100 gaming machines; exactly 12 table games for Blackjack and Roulette games; two poker tables; an OK sportsbook; and there are many thrilling extras on top of gaming — all in a massive 11,800 sq ft area.
Kazino Viktoriya Cherri (Victoria Cherry Casino) and Shangri La Casino are some of the most prolific casinos in Belarus. The former offers precisely 41 slot machines, three Roulette tables, and eight tables for Blackjack and Punto Banco. The latter features 30 slot machines and 14 table games. Another one is Club-Casino Belaya Vezha, which offers 77 gaming machines and 13 gaming tables.
First, Belarusian casinos are mostly just casinos. The majority do not provide accommodations but, instead, they are situated near hotels and resorts — especially those in Minsk. Some, however, provide additional hospitality services such as restaurants, bars, and lounges while some are actually hotels with an additional gaming service.
Even though there are gambling facilities in Belarus other than casinos, there are no racetracks or racinos in the country. And in the casinos, there is a wide range of games: Slot Machines, Ultimate Texas Hold’em Poker, Big Five, Boston Poker, Blackjack, Roulette, Baccarat (Punto Banco), Texas Hold’em Poker, Omaha Poker, Oasis Poker, Russian Poker, 6 Card Poker, American Roulette, Russian Blackjack, Stud Poker, Omaha Hold’em Poker, Lovi Wave, Oasis Poker Gold, Russian Poker Gold, and Split Poker. Much emphasis is placed on slot machines and poker games as they are the most popular forms of gambling amongst Belarusian players.
Bingo is near nonexistent in Belarus. There are no bingo halls and casinos do not offer the game; even lotteries do not offer bingo games extensively. Concurrently, lotteries are on the good side of Belarusians as they participate in both national and local lotteries. There have been numerous lottery vendors practically on every street since the anterior Decree No. 9 of 2005. The Belarusian National Lottery is also available online, powered by GTECH.
Sports are very popular in Belarus; the most recent study by the Official Website of the Republic of Belarus states that more than 22% of the population participate in at least one form of sports frequently. In a similar way, sports betting is widespread — especially on football, skiing, ice hockey, tennis, and wrestling events. There are hundreds of betting shops across the country and some casinos — for example, Carat Casino and Club-Casino Belaya Vezha — even feature a sportsbook.
Pertaining online gambling, regulations are not passed yet. Still, foreign gambling websites are highly prohibited. In fact, any gambling website that does not use the .by domain extension must be blocked by all MSPs and ISPs (in actuality, the state monopoly Beltelecom operates most ISPs and MSPs) — as enforced by a law signed by the President on January 6, 2012. The President takes the issue so serious to the extent that even giants like Google and Amazon might have to use the domain extension to avoid being blocked — and even being fined if the business is not specifically registered in Belarus (according to Decree No. 60).
Belarusians who violate the law would pay a fine of up to $120. Thus, online gambling is possible but players can only visit by websites.
– Similar to other European countries, Belarus has a minimum gambling age of 18 years. And identification is required for both entering a casino and claiming a winning.
– In addition to casinos, there are more than 150 gaming halls (or slot machine halls) in Belarus with a number of slot machines and extra entertainment. For one, MaxBet Entertainment Group Plc. (one of Central and Eastern Europe’s top gaming operators) has gaming halls in three Belarusian areas: Minsk, Mogilev, and Babruysk. All these gaming halls are quite up to standards considering their equally efficient machines and varieties alongside a warming environment with brilliant architecture and amenities. Also, there is a BelShansService – Slot Hall in Svetlogorsk. Additionally, Club Admiral also offers seven gaming halls within Minsk. Lastly, Ritzio International operates 29 gaming halls with more than 1,000 slot machines.
– The same company that owns and operates Diamond Princess Casino also owns and operates BigZ Princess Casino.
– On October 11, 2013, the President of the Republic of Belarus held a press conference to discuss a wide range of issues related to the Belarusian-Russian integration. During the conference, he stated that he understands the fact that many Russians (especially those from Moscow) are flocking to the country because of Russia’s strict gambling policy and he plans to control the gambling industry tightly — but never will he restrict gambling to specific zones because gambling is a good contributor to the country’s economy and for international recognition. He said that the authorities “want it at the level of Las Vegas” and “honesty and fairness” will always play a major role. This is why some players call Belarus the post-Soviet Las Vegas.
– Amongst all post-Soviet states, Belarus is the only state with lenient gambling laws and policies. Other post-Soviet states are Russia, Moldova, Estonia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Concurrently, Belarusian tourists also visit an administrative region of Georgia, the Autonomous Republic of Adjara, more than any other classification of tourists.
– Pertaining problem gambling, the President signed Decree No. 416 on September 24, 2012, as an addition to Decree No. 9 and Decree No. 599. The Decree introduced a self-limitation policy, so players can limit themselves for six months to three years in order to avoid gambling addiction. In addition, a special electronic cash system was provided for each gambling facility — which began operation on December 1, 2013 — to supervise the application of all Belarusian gambling laws.
– Mysteriously, many casinos in Belarus are permanently closed. Hence, we recommend that foreigners verify the current operation status of their preferred casino(s) before deciding to visit the country.
– In 2013, a Grodno male in his early 30s entered a casino after a long night at work. While playing a slot machine, the man went into a deep slumber due to the fatigue from work and, accordingly, won more than €15,000. Then, another player stole the money while the winner was sleeping. However, a good percentage of the money was returned to the winner due to the casino’s monitoring mechanism after he complained to the casino management.
– In July 2012, the Minister of the Taxes and Duties Ministry proposed that a state-run online gambling portal is established to provide players with a defined list of online gambling operators licensed in Belarus. According to the Minister, the website would raise roughly $6 million within the first three years.
– Even though the process might be strenuous, Bitcoin gambling is possible in Belarus. This is because online gambling operations are limited to registered companies with a .by website and Bitcoin itself has no specific regulations. Therefore, gambling with a virtual currency can only be done on the website of registered gambling operators and one of such might be very hard to find.
– As of April 2013, more than 125 gambling operators had valid licenses in Belarus. Those operators operated 35 casinos, 279 slot machine halls, 156 sports betting shops, and approximately 9,500 gaming machines. Fast forward to March 2018, the gambling operators have dropped to 111 and they operate roughly 200 gambling facilities and 6,400 gaming machines.
– In November 2017, a Belarusian professional poker player by the name Mikita Badziakouski came third in the One Drop No-Limit Hold’em High Roller at the World Series of Poker Europe tournament with a gross earning of €1.52 million. German players Dominik Nitsche and Andreas Eiler came first and second with €3.48 million and €2.15 million respectively.
– In January 2011, the Belarusian authorities announced their search for an investor to start and complete a €1 billion gambling facility project near Minsk National Airport.
– In 2016, Olympic Entertainment Group AS (OEG) — a multinational gambling operator with more than 160 gambling facilities in Europe — decided to shut down all Olympic Casino BEL operations in Belarus. The closure was eventually completed in mid-2017, with more than 10 casinos going into liquidation.
– It is estimated that between 30% and 50% of casino customers in Belarus are Russians.