Strictly regulated and controlled gambling could represent a valuable source of tax revenues to Belarus, the country's president, Alexander Lukashenko, told lawmakers this week.
Addressing a meeting of the Cabinet, Lukashenko said that gambling corruption problems that had caused neighbouring states like Russia and Ukraine to impose draconian bans on the pastime could be obviated through proper planning and strict oversight.
The UPI news agency reports that the president told Cabinet colleagues: "If approached wisely, the gambling industry can become an additional source of revenue for the national budget through taxes. The industry can create new jobs and attract tourists and investments to our country."
The cabinet was reviewing a proposal Lukashenko ordered six months ago from government agencies and commercial interests on how best to manage casinos, the report said.
"Everything will be alright here if those who are assigned to control this business do their jobs and do not destroy the business, do not criminalise it," Lukashenko said.
It is not known if his recommendations extend to online gambling. The gambling scene in Belarus is dominated by around 25 land casinos. National and local lotteries are also allowed, but online gambling companies have so far been prohibited from offering their services to citizens.
Formerly a member of the USSR, Belarus has a population of almost 10 million people and has been an independent state since August 1991. The country is bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, the latter two nations actively moving toward regulated Online Gambling.
Since 1996, Belarus and Russia have been in negotiations to form a single state called the Union of Russia and Belarus.
In January 2005, the President issued a decree tightening gambling regulations and taxation and requiring that gamblers produce identification in order to claim winnings in an effort to exclude money laundering.
Gambling activity in Belarus is licensed by the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, and punters must be 18 years or older to play in the country's casinos.