Olympus shuts Kazakhstan betting site amid tax evasion probe


Sports betting operator Olympus (Olimp/BetOlimp) has shut its Kazakhstan-facing website amid the ongoing fallout from an investigation into alleged tax evasion.

olympus-shuts-kazakhstan-betting-site-amid-tax-evasion-probeLast November, a court in Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty ordered a six-month suspension of the betting license of Only Bet LLP and Alpha Bet LLP, which operated in the country under the Olimp brand. The operator was reportedly targeted by the Kazakh Ministry of Finance for “potential concealment of taxes” from revenue generated by Olimp’s online operations.

The company shut its land-based betting operations but continued to operate its local Olimp.kz site, while insisting to its online users that the allegations against the company were unfounded. Olimp added that it planned to protest its license suspension at a court hearing on December 23.

That hearing apparently didn’t go well, as customers who attempted to log on to Olimp.kz on Wednesday found a message saying the site “can no longer accept bets on a Kazakhstan license in connection with its suspension.” The message expressed sorrow at the situation but offered no forecast for when – or if – the site expected to be back in business.
Shortly before Christmas, Kazakh media outlets reported that the Almaty Prosecutors Office believed Olimp was in tax arrears to the tune of KZT145b (US$384m), which seems a pretty preposterous figure to be owed on revenue generated online in a country with a population of less than 19m people.

On Wednesday, Deputy Prosecutor General Marat Akhmetzhanov told Sputnik that the investigation into Olimp was ongoing and that the probe could take up to a year. Akhmetzhanov warned that his office would pursue other betting operators with equal vigor if it determined that they were evading their tax obligations.

That appears to be no idle threat, as a local outfit known as Profit Betting was forced to close some of its shops in October after its principals were detained for questioning. In December, the head of the Kazakh division of Parimatch observed that the local regulatory environment was “really not encouraging.”