Azerbaijan, like Turkey, is often known as one of the most secular majority-Muslim countries. That status also suits its gambling industry; while gambling regulations are highly restrictive, there are still at least some products available on the regulated market, making Azerbaijan much more permissive than many countries throughout the Middle East.
Governments often ban or restrict gambling activities out of a concern that problem gambling could become a widespread social problem. In Azerbaijan, however, it’s possible that restrictions were put in place out of problem gambling concerns regarding a single person. In 1998, then-President Heydar Aliyev banned nearly all forms of gambling amid swirling rumors that his son had gambling debts totaling $6 million.
However, 13 years later, Aliyev’s son Ilham ascended to the presidency, and when he entered the office he brought his own perspectives on gambling with him. He stopped short of a full reversal of the ban, but sports betting, lotteries, horse racing, and greyhound racing were all legalized.
Land-based and online casino gaming, however, remain illegal. Of course, without domestic options, Azeri players turn to offshore platforms for their casino gaming needs. There are plenty of established international brands that either target Azerbaijani players or passively accept them. At one point, authorities tried blocking offshore platforms, but workarounds and loopholes are never hard to find and enforcement has generally been lax.
The lottery is regulated by the State Committee for Securities under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, which issues licenses and controls the terms of the lottery. The Azerloterya Open Joint Stock Company holds a monopoly on lottery and bingo products. Caspiantech CJSC, better known under its brand name, Topaz, has a national monopoly on sports betting.
Azerbaijani sports bettors have rich and varied tastes. Standard-issue sports like football, basketball, and hockey are all popular, but so are sports particular to other regions, such as American and Australian football, and even Pessapolo, the Finnish version of baseball. Topaz also offers bets on floorball, futsal, and almost anything else you could think of, including esports.
Azerbaijan has a strong chess tradition and a fervent fan base to go along with it; you can count on seeing plenty of support for Baku-born Grandmaster Teimour Radjabov in tournaments (and where there’s support, there’s often betting).
Standard payment methods like Visa and MasterCard aren’t popular among Azerbaijani players, who prefer e-wallets like ePay, Trustly, and Neteller. While it’s not as widespread as in other countries, some Azerbaijanis are definitely interested in crypto; nearly 150,000 of them, or 1.4% of the population, hold some kind of cryptocurrency.
According to Seymur Ibadov, chief of research and investment consulting at Unicapital Investment Company, Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency in the country. Bitcoin and Ethereum, the second most popular cryptocurrency, account for over 60% of the market. Others include Binance Coin, Cardano, Dogecoin, XRP, Polkadot, Solana, and Uniswap.
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