YEREVAN–The gambling industry of Armenia is about to experience a major overhaul using concepts developed from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to guide the industry.
The idea behind the reform is to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing and other illegal activities from taking place.
Armenia’s Deputy Finance Minister, Vardan Aramyan, made the announcement Tuesday in keeping with recent actions taken to move Armenia’s casinos away from all cities such as the capital Yerevan. The country’s three largest resort towns, Jermuk, Tsaghkadzor and Sevan would instead play host to the country’s gambling halls.
The pullback of Armenian casinos takes its lead from FATF principles. The policies issued by the FATF include the Forty Recommendations on money laundering as well as the 9 Special Recommendations on Terrorists Financing. These recommendations make it harder for money laundering to occur, while implementing policies that keep thorough records of customers and customer transactions.
According to Aramyan, the new bill aids “Larger companies in this sector” which “are more disciplined and have control systems, separate subdivisions to fight against money laundering and financing of terrorism. Smaller companies are less disciplined, more negligent, and that is conditioned by their abilities.”
Currently, Armenia is home to 11 casinos and 103 gambling halls. The passage of the ‘RA Concept on Regulation and Control of the Gambling Business Sector’ on April 1 ensures more state control over the halls including regular visitor quantity counts and higher annual fees.
The gambling sector in Armenia is an important part of the country’s economy. It provides much needed revenue that pays for infrastructure and other improvements. Being a small country with a tiny population and having neighbors like Iran and Turkey (each has 72 million population) Armenia’s gambling industry is poised to benefit from those markets. Only recently during the Iranian Novruz celebration more than 15,000 tourists from Iran visited Armenia in one week.
The new FATF- sanctioned laws will hopefully clean up the sector without hurting profits.