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Anton Kuchukhidze: How the media covers the gambling business in Ukraine

In 2021, the legal gambling market demonstrated high-growth dynamic, in spite of all the challenges faced by licensed gambling operators. However, despite the billions in revenue for the state budget and the introduction of responsible gambling principles, a number of experts and the media criticize legal gambling as never before. And the question is, why?

In Ukraine today, the media behaves rather weird when it comes to the legal gambling industry. During the gambling ban from 2009 to 2020, when only lotteries were legal, no one fought against or even talked about gambling addiction. No attention has been paid to this topic – not like today, although, in the world of gambling, lotteries are the simplest and most accessible form of gambling for people of all ages. At the same time, thousands of illegal gambling halls with ambiguous and often dangerous conditions for players functioned and refused to pay taxes to the state budget. And for some reason, no one seemed to care then.

Today, following the State-level decision to legalize gambling and make the market civilized for players and businesses, “experts” and the media began to actively state that the legalization of gambling has resulted in a sharp increase in gambling addiction.

The second popular idea of opponents of the gambling legalization is that the budget receives smaller revenues from the gambling industry. In one of the previous blogs, I have already analysed where this myth came from, and I will not dwell on it again. The one thing I need to remind you is that in just over one year following legalization, the budget received more than UAH 2 billion from license fees alone. During the ban on the industry, the budget received neither taxes nor license fees.

It is obvious that the attacks on legal gambling are a frame-up, and those behind it pursue political and economic goals. The legalization of gambling has affected the interests of certain groups engaged in shadow gambling, as well as politicians using negative rhetoric against legal gambling to attract conservative voters.

The biased nature of the materials is obvious for another reason: we have been holding open round tables for the media for more than two years. We invite all the media to these events so that they can ask any questions to the management of the largest legal gambling companies and learn first-hand about what is happening in the legal market today, as well as the challenges it faces. However, most media representatives ignore our round tables. At the same time, they persistently publish critical materials with “fake news” and distorted information.

So, obviously, such rhetoric today only harms the establishment of a civilized gambling market. The legal industry requires integrated support, in particular, the adoption of the draft law 2713-d on gambling taxation. Any manipulation of public opinion only poses additional challenges and increases the risk of the market becoming illegal again, which will ultimately harm everyone – the State, business and gamblers themselves.

Specific interests contradicting the needs of society and the State are behind media attacks on the legal gambling sector. That is why I urge you to take a more critical attitude to all publications that demonize legal gambling.

I also want to remind you that the Ukrainian Gambling Council has a wide experience in online and offline gambling, remaining open to comments on any aspects of developing the legal gambling market in Ukraine.

Anton Kuchukhidze, Chairman of the Ukrainian Gambling Council, exclusively for the Ukrainian News


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