Tajikistan is almost entirely an Islamic country, with about 99% of the population being Muslim, and Muslim countries tend to take a very dim view of gambling, with some not even allowing it in any form. (1)
In spite of this, not long ago Tajikistan used to be fairly tolerant of gambling, and there were even several casinos located in the country. The first step they took was to license them, and back in 2000 regulations were put in place to limit and control their activities. Then they increased the tax rate on them which ended up being so high that it was estimated that 80% of the proceeds ended up in the government’s pockets. (2)
Finally, in 2009, a bill was passed to ban gambling altogether in the country, but it did take several years for this to be implemented, but very recently it did come into force and the effect was to prohibit gambling establishments from operating legally, and thus the 5 casinos they had at this time were forced to close, and this is the situation we now face today. (3)
So this has come as quite a shock to the Tajik people, the ones well off to be able to gamble that is, who went from gambling being pretty widely available to having none at all available, legally anyway.
Given that this is a fairly recent development, we haven’t had much of a chance to get a pulse on how much underground gambling that this new prohibition has created, but the feeling now is that this will drive people more to gamble online instead.
So with no legal options to play poker, players are relegated to either finding an illegal game, and it’s hard to tell how available that is or what the risks may be, or to play poker online.
Poker is not known to be very popular in Tajikistan though, and for those who still gamble, online sports betting is known to be much more popular, with poker lagging far behind.
Online Poker In Tajikistan
Online poker sites don’t really have a problem with accepting poker players from Tajikistan, unlike some countries, and the main reason is probably due to the fact that the new law only prohibits the running gambling operations in Tajikistan, it doesn’t actually ban people from playing online.
The government probably isn’t too concerned with this because so few Tajiks even have internet access, as penetration remains very low. This is also one of the poorest countries in Asia as well, so it’s more than just lack of infrastructure, many people can’t even afford it.
As far as playing poker on a computer goes, it is estimated that only 1% of Tajik households own a computer, so the challenges actually lie even deeper than just internet availability. So while they have worked their way up to having about 10% of the population having it available now, merely having it available and actually having it are two different things. (4)
They do have internet cafes here though although it costs about 75 cents an hour to use them, and given that the average monthly wage here is about $35 a month, a lot of people simply can’t afford it.
There is a little internet filtering that goes on here but it’s limited to what are felt as politically sensitive web sites, and they aren’t blocking or even worried about blocking gambling or poker websites, so if you can get on to one of them, there’s nothing stopping you from doing so.
So given the fact that poker isn’t really a game that’s played very much here, and given that there are no live poker rooms, and given that people don’t have much internet access and even when they do they may not be able to afford to play, and often have enough to worry about simply putting food on the table, it’s not surprising that online poker in Tajikistan is almost a non factor.
Still though, for those with the means and the desire to play online poker, there is plenty of opportunity to do so and all of the major online poker sites will be happy to accept you as one of their players.
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