Religious bodies opposed, say all games of chance should be scrapped
The Turkish Finance Ministry will privatise all forms of game of chance, Prime Minister Ahmet Davuloglu said this week.
But, while privatisation of Sports Toto and the Horse Racing Authority is expected to yield $10 billion for State coffers, the process is stirring up a hornets nest with religious bodies who are opposed to any form of gambling.
Conservative newspaper Milli Gazete has criticised the process of privatisation for religious reasons saying all games of chance should be scrapped.
"We are faced with the reality of gambling gripping Turkey in the guise of games of chance. The government intends to privatize the games of chance to wash off its hands. This would amount to saying, ‘We don't do it as a state, but you go ahead with the private sector.' People will be further encouraged through a series of new games and television ads," Milli Gazete wrote.
"It's all the same when the private sector operates them. Nothing changes. It's forbidden," Mehmet Nuri Yilmaz, former head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (RAD) told Al-Monitor. "They privatize everything, but even then the government still benefits from the games of chance. It makes no difference if they are run by the government or privatized, they are equally illegitimate."
"The state doesn't care what is legitimate and illegitimate, Yilmaz reasserted. "It is after the money, no matter where it comes from."
Back in August, Turkey privatised its 88-year-old National Lottery Agency Milli Piyango awarding the 10-year operational licence to the Turkish consortium Net Şans-Hitay who beat fierce competition with a bid of $2.755 billion.
The consortium comprises Net Şans Holding, which already owns several entertainment and gambling businesses, and Hitay, which owns Turkey's first online gambling platform bilyoner.com.
Net Şans-Hitay will earn a 25 percent share of annual turnover as well as a 28 percent share of gross revenue from other verticals.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has generated around 41 billion Turkish lira ($18 billion) through games of chance over the past 10 years. Critics say new licences are issued under a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" association closely tied to the AKP.
According to ySTATS, gaming by internet users in Turkey and Poland grew dramatically in 2013. In Turkey, over 20 million people play games online regularly, with social games being the largest contributors to this number.
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