Kazakhstan, officially known as the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a country located in Central Asia. It is known to be the biggest landlocked country in the world by area and the ninth largest country in general. While the predominant religion in the country is Islam, Kazakhstan is allowing freedom of religion. This is why laws in the country are not based on religious beliefs.
A perfect example of the way Kazakhstan is different from other Muslim countries when it comes to its legal system is the way the country regulates gambling. In 2007, Kazakhstan legalized gambling, allowing some forms of gambling but imposing strict regulations on the industry.
Land-based gambling in Kazakhstan is available in the form of numerous brick-and-mortar casinos located in two special areas in the country. Games like blackjack, roulette, and poker are easily accessible at the gambling facilities in the country, allowing players to enjoy a traditional casino experience. Unfortunately, online gambling remains illegal under the laws in the country and there are no signs of the legislative system changing any time soon.
History of Gambling in Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan used to be under the rule of nomadic tribes up until the 13th century when it became a part of the Mongolian Empire led by Genghis Khan. During the mid-19th century, the territory was conquered by the Russian Empire, making Kazakhstan one of the republics of the Soviet Union after World War I.
Gambling was a part of Kazakhstan’s history ever since it was under the rule of the Russian Empire. The first decree that allowed the organization of lotteries was signed in 1698 by Tsar Peter I. Later in the history of the country, when Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, lotteries were conducted by the Ministry of Finance of the Soviet republics. Gambling activities started being licensed by the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Kazakhstan ever since 1999.
Kazakhstan was the last country of the former Soviet Union to declare its independence after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. After the country gained its independence, gambling became an unregulated industry, with Kazakhstan introducing a gambling law no sooner than 2007. The new law, however, put severe restrictions on this sector, allowing brick-and-mortar casino operations only in two specific regions in Kazakhstan.
In present days, the restriction on casino operations in the country is still relevant as there have not been any amendments in the law that would allow a more liberal regulatory framework. Online gambling is also an unregulated area that requires more attention as it allows for many cases of illegal online gambling among Kazakhstani.
Gambling Regulations in Kazakhstan
Gambling became a regulated industry in Kazakhstan after President Nursultan Nazarbajew signed Act No. 219 on the gambling business on January 12, 2007. This is also the piece of legislation that is currently regulating gambling in Kazakhstan, imposing quite the harsh restrictions on the industry. Under the Act, gambling is legal in the country only if it is offered in two specific areas in Kazakhstan, specifically meant for gambling activities. The two regions determined by the law as the only areas where gambling can be legally organized are Kapchagay and Schuchinsk.
The Act signed in 2007 also defined casino licenses issued before April 1, 2007, as expired. Prior to the enactment of the new law on gambling, there were 130 brick-and-mortar casinos operating in the country. Naturally, with the new restrictions imposed by the law, the number of operating casinos decreased significantly. While some of the gambling facilities that were located outside the areas designated for gambling opt for underground operations, others were transformed into restaurants or clubs. There were, however, plenty of land-based casinos that simply stopped operating following the implementation of the new Act on gambling.
According to the current gambling law in Kazakhstan, operators that wish to run land-based casinos in the country must obtain a license from the local regulatory body. The licenses issued by the Kazakh authorities are valid for 10 years. Under the Act on gambling businesses, there is also a requirement for the minimum number of games that these facilities should operate. The law requires brick-and-mortar casinos to offer at least 20 table games and a minimum of 50 slot machines. Under the Act, the legal age to gamble in casinos located in Kazakhstan is 21 years.
Gambling Regulator and Gaming Licensed in Kazakhstan
To be able to offer gaming and betting services in Kazakhstan, operators must obtain a relative license from the local regulatory body. The authority that handles the licensing process for land-based gaming and betting facilities in Kazakhstan is the country’s Ministry of Culture and Sport.
It is also possible for operators to apply for a license in an electronic form that can be submitted online. There are several types of information that need to be provided by operators applying for a license online. These include:
- The electronic application process requires operators to provide an electronic copy of documents that prove their license fee payment
- Operators must provide data on the gambling equipment they will utilize, ensuring the right documents proving their ownership of the said equipment
- The samples and nominations that serve as legitimation signs must be available in both Kazakh and Russian
- Operators must provide an electronic copy of a document in Kazakh and Russian, giving information about the rules of the gambling facilities that will be established as well as the type of gambling services it will provide
- Operators are required to provide an electronic copy of their contract with a banking institution operating on the territory of Kazakhstan, with the contract defining the company’s opening of a contribution at a rate that has been determined by the state budget for the respective fiscal year
- A copy of the data proving the property right on the gambling equipment owned and operated by the company
- The electronic application form must be certified by the electronic signature of the service receiver
Gambling Taxes in Kazakhstan
While players in Kazakhstan are not required to pay any taxes on winnings generated through legal gambling, casino operators must pay a gambling tax. Under the Tax Code, operators are providing gambling in the form of gaming tables, slot machines, totalizator’s cash registers, totalizator’s electronic cash registers, a land-based bookmaker cash register, or an electronic bookmaker register.
The respective taxes are paid on a quarterly basis and differ in accordance with the type of gambling activities conducted by the operator. According to the Tax Code, the applicable tax rates on gambling are as follows:
- 1,660x the monthly calculation index per single month for a gaming table
- 60x the monthly calculation index per single month for a slot machine
- 300x the monthly calculation index per single month for a land-based totalizator cash register
- 4,000x the monthly calculation index per single month for an electronic totalizator cash register
- 300x the monthly calculation index per single month for a land-based bookmaker cash register
- 3,000x the monthly calculation index per single month for an electronic bookmaker cash register
Gambling became a regulated industry in Kazakhstan in 2007 with the enactment of Act No. 219. It allowed licensed operators to offer casino games to residents of the country, provided the casino facilities are located in either one of the two designated gambling areas in Kazakhstan – Kapchagay and Schuchinsk. Outside of these two areas, casino operations are considered illegal.
While land-based gambling has been regulated by a law ever since 2007, online gambling remains somewhat a gray area. Although there is a definition of illegal online gambling, legal loopholes allow Kazakh players to play on foreign gaming websites. Since the government is not taking any measures to restrict access to unlicensed virtual casinos, currently unregulated online gambling is widely spread among casino fans in the country.
Although there are talks of amending the current legislative form in Kazakhstan, any potential reforms will only bring more restrictions to the sector. Unfortunately, there are no signs of Kazakhstan legalizing online gambling in the near future.