Surrounded by Ukraine and Romania, Moldova (like most eastern European countries) has a strong history behind its identity today. First, it has a diverse landscape elevated by wineries, fields, forests, and mountainous ridges. The country is also widely known for its unique cities with Soviet-style architecture, parks, museums, and historical sites in Chișinău, wineries in Codru and Nistreana, etc.
Pertaining to the Moldovan gambling industry, Bogdan Stinga — the Managing Director of E-SERVICE & COMPONENTS — put it best when he once said it is “a small but significant local market.”
Below is a list of all casinos currently operating in the regions of Moldova.
Casino at Hotel Jumbo
Casino Europa – Chișinău
Nuovo Casino at the Radisson Blu Leopard Hotel
Seabeco Hotel and Casino
The issue of gambling first emerged in Moldova in 1918, but the market was quite negligible then. During the days of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic under the USSR (which it joined on August 2, 1940), gambling began to surface at a regular pace. Just like every other Soviet republic, gambling was strictly prohibited and anyone who violated such laws would face defined penalties. Much like others, these defiant laws continued until the country declared independence on August 27, 1991.
Shortly after the famous Dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991, the country became the Republic of Moldova, became a member of the United Nations on March 2, 1992 (United Nations Security Council Resolution 739), and adopted the current Constitution of Moldova on July 29, 1994. With the new constitution, laws declared gambling a legal activity.
From that time through the early 2000s, the first casino opened, along with a handful of others in Moldova, but only rich Russian businessmen and large companies had the opportunity to own and operate them. Yet, the majority had already closed down by the end of the 1990s; especially those owned by Russians. The first casino, which was owned by a Moldovan, was an intrigue however, considering it had no name or banner and only offered three gaming tables.
Accordingly, some random gambling laws came into effect which made it impossible for foreign operators to run a casino in the country; as the requirement indicated that a Moldovan company must own at least 51% of any gambling business. The Government of the Republic of Moldova also assigned the Ministry of Finance to oversee the gambling industry.
Soon, online gambling operators emerged as well, though without any license or regulation. And both land-based and online operators approached their Romanian peers in 2011 to verify that the respective gambling laws meet up with European Union standards.
In addition to EU standards, casino businesses in Moldova started reaching out to E-SERVICE & COMPONENTS; a Romania-based gaming equipment manufacturer and supplier, to help expand their individual operations and market. In April 2012, Managing Director Bogdan Stinga said the gambling market could return a yield of around €40 million per year.
However, the most significant development was the Loteria Nationala a Moldovei (National Lottery of Moldova) signing a partnership deal with Canada-based gaming solutions provider The Stars Group Inc. (previously known as Amaya Gaming Group) in September 2011. According to Victor Barbaneagra, Deputy Minister of Finance, the partnership was initiated to launch the very first SMS-based lottery in the country so every interested citizen can participate with ease. The proceeds would go towards the state budget, which will be coordinated towards culture, sports, health, and education.
Concurrently, the gambling industry was in a disorganized state as most gambling facility owners were former criminals, most operating facilities were not to be trusted, and the legislation was rather unclear. Fast forward to November 2016, a change was sprouting as 200 Moldovan police officers confiscated more than 330 gambling facilities in Chișinău alone; all casinos in the country were shut down to the ruling party’s delight.
By December 16 of that year, the Parlamentul Republicii Moldova (Parliament of the Republic of Moldova) had adopted a draft law as introduced by Vladimir Plahotniuc, the chairman of the Democratic Party of Moldova. The law was an attempt to lower the ever-increasing gambling addiction rate and number of illegal casinos. It came into effect in late-December and allows the state government to generate at least £40 million every year by establishing a monopoly on all forms of gambling excluding casinos; the monopoly was assigned to the National Lottery of Moldova.
A blanket ban was also placed on advertising any gambling or gambling-related service or product. In addition, gambling facilities outside municipalities are allowed to install a minimum of 10 slot machines while those within municipalities can install a minimum of 20 slot machines.
In January 2017, the Parliament amended the Revenue Code, which increased the licensing fee to MDL 600,000 and a fee of MDL 130,000 per gaming table — all for the course of generating more funds for the government. Also, a tax of 18% was introduced on winnings. These are to be used for developing major sectors (such as sports, culture, healthcare, education, and infrastructure) as the government deem gambling a resource.
In April 2017, a number of gambling laws were also introduced, signed, and passed by Moldovan authorities to reassure online players that online gambling is not illegal. In addition, a set of rules were directed to land-based gambling services. Even though the laws declared online gambling legal, they did not create any legal framework to govern it.
While the gambling market is still in progress and the whole legal framework is nothing to write home about, two private, foreign companies signed separate contracts with the Moldovan authorities in May 2018. The contracts were aimed at putting an end to the country’s pseudo-monopoly: the National Lottery of Moldova. The two companies are Novo Gaming M Technologies GmbH and NGM SPC Limited; the former is for gaming machines and tables while the latter is for sports betting and lottery.
Moving on, the companies are ordered to allocate 90% of their sports betting revenues, 75% of their lottery revenues, and 51% of their gaming machine revenues to the National Lottery of Moldova.
The present legal framework of the Moldovan gambling industry lists lottery, casino gambling, slot machines, betting, and skill games as the only forms of legal gambling in the country. The Ministry of Finance oversees the industry by issuing licences, enforcing the gambling laws and other associated legislation, auditing gambling facilities and equipment, and many more.
Each of the four casinos in Moldova offers a small amount of gaming machines and tables as the facilities are apparently not as big as their European counterparts. Nonetheless, they deliver that elegant European casino scene: a warm, calming, luxurious, and relaxing atmosphere; they are more suitable for the elites. Couple that with friendly, responsive employees and the rigorous security checks to make sure the gambling climate is matured and secure with excellent European-style services.
Moving on, Moldovans greatly speak the Moldovan language (otherwise known as Romanian) and the meagre, remaining share goes to Ukrainian, Russian, Bulgarian, and Gagauz. English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Turkish, Greek, and Portuguese are the main foreign languages while other languages are completely nonexistent.
When it comes to currency, Moldovans use and exchange Moldovan Leu (MDL), which is EUR 0.050, USD 0.059, and GBP 0.044 according to Google; the first two are widely accepted throughout the country. Worthy of note is that cash is recommended in Moldova as opposed to cards; unless you are in Chișinău, you might find it hard to use your non-Moldovan credit or debit card.
The capital of Moldova, Chișinău, features all the four casinos in the country; the Casino at Hotel Jumbo in Decebal Boulevard, Casino Europa – Chișinău in Dacia Boulevard, Nuovo Casino at the Radisson Blu Leopard Hotel in Mitropolit Varlaam, and Seabeco Hotel and Casino in M. Chibortaru Street.
Since Napolean Palace Casino at Cosmos Hotel closed, Casino Europa – Chișinău has been the flagship casino in Moldova with 12 gaming tables in the first floor and an undisclosed number of gaming machines in the ground floor — some websites claim it has 25 slot machines. Nuovo Casino at the Radisson Blu Leopard Hotel seems to be the second-largest casino in the country. But, finding the number of gaming machines and tables in each casino — either exact or approximate — is actually impossible due to lack of information on the Internet.
Out of the four casinos, only Casino Europa – Chișinău is a standalone facility with a bar, a restaurant, and minimal amenities. The other three casinos are connected to large hotels where hospitality services (such as spas, restaurants, bars, rooms, suites, fitness centres, and meeting rooms) are available.
Each casino offers a considerably small amount of table games which typically include Oasis Poker, American Roulette, European Roulette, Blackjack, Russian Poker, 7 Card Stud, and Europa Poker (in Casino Europa – Chișinău). On top of these, all casinos also have a handful of gaming machines installed.
Particularly, bingo is not popular in Moldova as there are no bingo halls and the national lottery does not organize any bingo or bingo-related game. For poker games, they are always available in the casinos and tournaments are also organized by casinos to attract professionals across the country. However, poker is not as popular as compared to other European countries.
Further, the National Lottery of Moldova organizes lottery drawings every Sunday and tickets are available in the various land-based outlets across the country. Unfortunately, the lottery does not offer lottery games online but Moldovan players are allowed to participate in online lotteries organized by foreign lottery websites and lottery agents.
Moving to sports betting, Moldovans love to bet on sporting events like other European countries. The most popular sports in Moldova are Trânta (the national sport, which is a variant of wrestling), football (of course, the most widespread), cycling, basketball, rugby, and rugby union. To bet, there is a ton of betting shops spread throughout the length and breadth of the country.
Pertaining to online gambling, the Moldovan authorities do not impose any law against gambling on offshore websites; the only issue being that there are no local online casinos, lotteries, bookmakers, bingo websites, or poker websites. Hence, players are allowed to gamble online on unlicensed websites without attracting any penalty whatsoever.
– The minimum gambling age in Moldova is 18 years and age verification checks are required before gaining entrance to a casino. In July 2014, the Moldovan government toughened gambling facility ID checks by imposing a law on gambling operators: once caught involved in underage gambling, the operator will face government penalties.
– Reportedly, Casino Imperial, XO Casino Club, Casino Europa – Bălţi, Casino Grand, Casino at Cosmos Hotel, Admiral Casino, Napolean Palace Casino at Cosmos Hotel, and Casino Fortus are all permanently closed.
– Napolean Palace Casino at Cosmos Hotel opened in Chișinău on November 17, 2009. Running 24/7 with a VIP room, more than 70 gaming machines, and 18 table games, it was the largest casino in the country and could go head-to-head with other casinos in eastern Europe — until it shut down operations either in 2017 or 2018.
– Google also lists a casino in Anenii Noi, Moldova, called Casino Golden; however, there is no information about the casino anywhere, so it might be an error or someone wrong-listed it.
– While there is a number of foreign exchanges that exchange MDL to BTC and other popular cryptocurrencies, Moldavan authorities have shown little to no interest in the financial trend. In fact, there are no rules, laws, or regulations whatsoever regarding the use or exchange of cryptocurrencies in Moldova. Seeing this, many deem them as legal since no law prohibits them. Coupled with the fact that the authorities allow Moldovans to gamble on offshore websites, Bitcoin gambling is available in the country. Exchanges that support Moldova include LocalBitcoins, Paxful, SpectroCoin, Indacoin, BPay, Buyer.md, Bitcoins.md, and TokenTrade. Meanwhile, the very first cryptocurrency exchange platform in Moldova launched in 2017 as CNE Drachmae Market, which also exchanges its own token called Digital & Distributed Technology Moldova Innovation Token (DTMI Token).
– A particular website lists Cross, PariTopSport, SportPari, and Toto Fiesta as the only four bookmakers licensed by the Moldovan Ministry of Finance to offer sports betting exclusively in betting shops. This was before the National Lottery of Moldova took complete control of sports betting.
– As of January 7, 2017, there were 65 licensees in Moldova resulting to one lottery, four casinos, 13 bookmakers, and 72 slot machine facilities.
– There are more than 170 offshore gambling websites accessible in Moldova.
– The National Lottery of Moldova’s SMS-based lottery is called Millions for Moldova, which first took place on February 26, 2012. Precisely six years later, the lottery recorded more than 10,000 registered members. The highest prizes ever won were roughly MDL 1.801 million on March 2, 2014, and MDL 1.387 million on April 18, 2017. And to participate, players are to send six numbers (from one to 36) to 7575.
– In addition to organising lottery games, the National Lottery of Moldova also combats fraud, money laundering, gambling addiction, illegal gambling activities, manipulation of games, and other financial crimes related to gambling. The Public Property Agency solely owns the company.
– There are gambling facilities called “interactive clubs” in Moldova, in which players visit to access online gambling services.
– According to GamingLaw.eu, online sports betting and online poker are the two most popular forms of online gambling in Moldova.
– Due to the vital financial and economic drawback after the Dissolution of the Soviet Union, Moldova is infamously known as the poorest country in the whole continent of Europe. Statistically, 47.9% of the population have access to the Internet — which is okay for a country with a GDP (PPP) per capita of 5,998.
– In 2016, scratch cards alone generated more than MDL 3.2 billion in Moldova.
– Bulgarian entrepreneur (and one of Bulgaria’s richest men) Vasil Bozhkov, who owns the Public Property Agency (owner of the National Lottery of Moldova), has been the talk of media companies since September 11, 2009, when WikiLeaks leaked Bulgaria’s most wanted criminals as reported by John Ordway, the Chargé d’Affaires of the United States, which included his name and linked him to the Mafia.