Gambling Bill Approved in Ukraine

The parliament in Ukraine has approved a bill that will legalize gambling in the country after its first reading. 260 of the 450 deputies in the country voted for it. The bill, known as 2285-D, was introduced by Oleg Marusyak.

A gavel which would be used in a court of law.

A piece of legislation has been approved that seeks to legalize gambling in Ukraine. The bill will now be subject to a second reading, after which it may be introduced into law by the President. ©QuinceMedia/Pixabay

Marusyak proposed the bill as one of six alternatives to the reforms that were submitted by the Servant of the People Party-led government in Parliament in October.

The original bill introduced by the government in October was focused on the legalization of gambling in Ukraine, and included provisions for online betting and igaming. An early announcement from the country’s cabinet had stated that gambling would take place “exclusively on the territory of hotels”.

The idea behind the bill was to collect the money raised from taxes and fees from licensed gambling operators and funnel these funds into the “Fund for support of Medicine, Sports and Culture”. The bill also aimed to introduce a gambling regulator for the country; the Commission for the Development and Regulation of Gambling.

As a response to this bill, several others were proposed as alternatives. Whilst the main ideas behind the proposed legislation were similar, the rival bills mostly differed on the subject of license fees.

The bill proposed by Marusyak contained the lowest license fees of any of the rival bills. The figure was set at UAH6.7m for online gambling.

A minimum license fee of UAH41.7m was also set for casinos in hotels with 200-250 rooms and a figure of UAH62.6m for casinos in hotels with 250 rooms or more. The license fees will follow the country’s minimum wage to account for inflation.

In the bill, it is proposed that bookmaking licenses would be determined through a system where each licensee would gain the right to open five bookmaking shops. There would be 32 bookmaking licenses up for grabs in Kyiv, 16 licenses between Odes and Kharkov (the other largest cities in Ukraine) and 32 available for the rest of the countries.

The bill also seeks to limit the number of gambling machines to 40,000. Players will have to be 21 or older in order to gamble – an increase from 18 which was the figure in an older version of the bill that did not pass when read in December.

A register has also been proposed for self-excluded players. Players would be able to add themselves to this register to prevent themselves from wagering money in the gambling market. The bill also proposes a method to effectively disseminate information pertaining to responsible gambling to staff members in the industry, as well as players.

Reaction to the Bill

Patrimatch, an operator that mainly aims its products at Eastern European countries has hailed the bill passing at its first reading. The company has noted that the legalization of gambling in Ukraine could have significant, positive effects on the country’s economy.

“The adoption of Bill 2285-D in its first reading is the first step towards creating a fair and transparent gambling market, which will, in turn, attract investment and introduce new technology to the country,” Parimatch said.

“Once legalized, the market will create thousands of jobs, contribute to both state and local budgets, lead to an increase in tourism, and will help to counter corruption in professional sports. Also, the increased tax revenues generated will provide much-needed funds to support culture, medicine, and sports in Ukraine.”

Before the bill is implemented in law, it will face a second reading. Before this stage, further details have to be worked out, which include things such as the tax rate which is to be levied on operators in the country. These figures will be included in the bill in its second reading.

“Deputies in Ukraine shoulder great responsibility when preparing the bill for its second reading, which must meet the highest international standards for legalizing the gambling industry,” Parimatch continued.

“Parimatch is open to dialogue and working with lawmakers as part of the finalization of the bill. We are happy to share our comprehensive global expertise and knowledge gained over the years operating as a successful, internationally focused and responsible gambling company.”

If the bill passes after the second reading, it will be handed over to President Volodymyr Zelensky. If the president signs the bill it will become law. It is likely that Zelensky will approve considering he has been one of the main proponents arguing for the legalization of gambling in Ukraine.

In September he ordered a new gambling bill in the country and sought to pass laws to legalize gambling in the country by the end of 2019. The president also threw his support behind Marusyak’s bill when it was voted on previously in December.

A statement by the president’s office said the regulation of gambling is important to his strategy of “de-shadowing the economy”.

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Kyiv in Ukraine. A church is clearly visible.

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