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In spite of Moldova being known as the poorest country in Europe, a situation that was actually made worse after the breakup of the Soviet Union where they were forced to fend for themselves, gambling remains quite popular in Moldova, and in fact its popularity has only increased over the last few years in spite of the economic challenges the country faces.
Commercial gambling has been offered in Moldova as far back as 1918, however it wasn’t until they gained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 that public gambling really got off the ground.
At this time, the country’s first land based casino was opened, although it certainly lacked the fanfare of your normal land based casino, and it didn’t even have a sign in front of it to let people know that it was an actual casino that they could gamble at. In fact this casino didn’t even have a name let alone a sign, and only featured 3 gambling tables in total, but it was a start. (1)
It wasn’t until a few years later that the Moldovan government got around to drafting legislation to regulate gambling in their country, and this led to the requirement of gambling establishments to obtain licenses and be under the control of the Moldovan Ministry of Finance.
This regulation not only pertained to casinos but to all other forms of gambling within Moldova as well. Gambling businesses that operated in Moldova had to be at least 51% owned by a Moldova company and thus limited foreign investment in any gambling business to no more than 49%.
There are only a total of 3 casinos in Moldova at this time, none of which offer live poker. (2) So while that is a very small amount, on the other hand, there are around 240 different gambling establishments in the country, including a number of poker clubs where you can indeed play live poker at. (3)
So unlike many other countries, the live poker scene in Moldova is fairly vibrant, especially in a country of only about 3.5 million people. Still though, most of the poker in Moldova is played online, as is the case everywhere these days.
Online Poker in Moldova
It is not only legal to play as much online poker as you wish in Moldova, you aren’t just limited to playing at home in private, you can also visit one of the several “interactive clubs,” which offer free internet access to online gambling sites, including online poker sites.
So this gives players a much more social experience while playing than you would get just playing at home, and it’s a pretty popular format, and you don’t even need internet access to play poker for money online. A lot of countries are reluctant to offer this format, even if they permit online poker to be played legally, but Moldova has no qualms with this at all.
Other than that, players can simply play at whatever online poker sites they want to from their own computers or mobile devices provided they have access to the internet. So things are wide open in Moldova as far as access to online poker, for now anyway, and there’s no additional taxes or any other sort of considerations that are involved, and the government does not seek to limit their access in any way at this time.
As for the outlook for the future, it is at least the intention of the Moldovan government to one day regulate online gambling and online poker and especially to seek to capture additional tax revenue from it.
They have been working on this as far back as 2010 in fact, and in cooperation with the European Union, started the process that year to at least move towards regulation of online gambling. The EU even provided the financing for the project, and the issues were studied, and a draft for all of this was put together, but that’s as far as things got, thus far anyway.
So we haven’t even heard anything more about this effort although it still might emerge again at some point down the road. While the intention here would be to increase the gambling tax revenue, the Moldovan government does collect tax revenue already from its land based gambling, although tax rates for it in this country are pretty modest compared to a lot of other countries, and the lowest in all of Europe in fact.
So while it’s not known what taxation scheme they would have sought or possibly will seek if online regulation ever sees the light of day here, it will likely be on the modest side as well, meaning that this might have a chance of working, as it’s high taxation rates that serve to scare away poker rooms.
In some markets though the sheer size of the market will attract the interest of large online poker rooms in spite of high taxation, but as a countries’ market size goes down, the tolerance for taxation on the part of poker rooms declines with it.
With Moldova’s small population, it’s hard to say whether or not it will be seen as a large enough market for online poker sites to want to bother with anyway, but it’s possible in theory anyway.
Online poker players in Moldova are certainly not concerned that online poker regulation here is in limbo, and hasn’t gotten off the drawing board yet, and they should be perfectly content to have it stay there, given that there are absolutely no advantages to players to have regulated poker in what is already a free market environment, which is also free of the additional taxation, additional rules, and monitoring by the government that goes along with regulated poker in a country.
So things are as good as they could possibly get for now, although if we ever do see regulated online poker in Moldova, and it will probably happen some day at least, and sooner rather than later probably, it likely will be among the friendlier online gambling schemes you will see, and in fact it would have to be in order for it to work.
(2) Moldova Casinos