A Closer Look at New Kazakh Gambling Legislation

A Closer Look at New Kazakh Gambling Legislation

Last updated on May 31st, 2024 at 02:01 pm

Kazakhstan’s parliament introduced new Kazakh gambling legislation that would regulate the industry in the country. The proposal has been named a public health bill. It would increase the legal age for bettors to 25, the highest in the world, and ban civil servants from gambling.

One of the most debated reforms is establishing the Betting Account Center, or the ‘BAC’ as it’s known in Kazakh law. This entity could potentially significantly impact the gambling industry, which the parliament is currently deliberating on.

If the bill is passed, the BAC will serve as a regulatory authority for the betting industry. However, what has raised concerns is that the BAC will receive 1.5 percent of all revenues from the Kazakh gambling market and have the power to determine market participants, as reported by bookie gambling news.

New Kazakh Gambling Legislation

A Closer Look at New Kazakh Gambling LegislationKazakhstan is home to several generations of gamblers, betting companies, and bookies. During the Soviet period, betting clubs established themselves as clandestine gambling dens in the region. Given the public’s disapproval of the gaming industry, anti-gambling laws began to take effect around 2017.

In January 2020, the BAC was initially proposed in parliament as part of a bill to combat ludomania or obsessive gambling. The bill sought to severely limit gaming firms’ advertising, raise the minimum age to participate in gambling to 25 and impose access prohibitions on people with financial delinquencies.

Exirius LLP, an opaque private Kazakh firm, and PayBox, a Kazakh payment processing business, won the earlier tender to develop and handle all of the BAC’s operations in 2020.

Return of the BAC

However, following Saken Musaybekov’s dismissal for receiving bribes from pro-BAC lobbyists, all BAC-related operations in Kazakhstan came to a standstill. Exirius and Paybox were determined to have been represented by the lobbyists, so the measure was put on hold.

In 2022, two deputy prime ministers of Kazakhstan, Serik Zhumangarin and Erlen Zhamaubaev, instructed the Ministry of Culture and Sport to remove any mention of the BAC from future law drafts due to the organization’s problematic past. But nobody appears to have cared about this.

The sector is on high alert again as the law has just entered parliament. A BAC that will do greater harm to the country is being considered as a cover to enact the recently refined public health legislation.

Gambling Industry Afraid to Speak

No one from the business community wants to speak out. Without the possibility of harassment, intimidation, or monitoring, bookmakers are frightened to voice their complaints. The most prominent example occurred in 2019 when Olimp, an independent Kazakh bookmaker, protested the BAC’s launch during a news conference. The authorities apprehended the owners for their alleged involvement with “organized crime syndicates” just moments after the news conference ended.

The relentless pressure culminated in the extradition of many Olimp workers from Serbia and Germany in 2023, all on suspicion of being involved in an organized criminal gang from 2014 to 2019. The accusations, however, seemed baseless and inspired by their decision to blow the whistle. The defense team representing Olimp is attempting to reduce the severity of the sentence, while the families of the condemned have petitioned President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to vacate the conviction.