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Anton Kuchukhidze: The state machinery is still learning to coexist with legal gambling

The legal gambling sector has existed in Ukraine for only two years. However, even in this short time, it managed to demonstrate stable growth. It was particularly noticeable prior to russia’s full-scale invasion in Ukraine. At the same time, despite significant achievements of the regulator and legal gambling cooperation in building a civilized gambling market, there is still a lot to do, especially in creating an adequate image of the legal gambling market from other public authorities. It becomes clear when comparing Ukrainian legal gambling with such developed markets as, for instance, the British one.

One of the international implications of russia’s war against Ukraine was the global increase in energy prices. This trend has particularly affected European countries, creating additional challenges for local businesses and consumers. A significant increase in energy prices led to a surge in the cost of production and provision of services. At the same time, consumers fail to have better purchasing power resulting in lower demand.

With this in mind, the CEO of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), Britain’s largest legal gambling association uniting 95% of the industry, has asked the British government to take measures and help legal gambling cope with the consequences of the energy crisis. In his address, Michael Dugher also stressed that the industry annually generates about GBP 4 billion for the British economy, pays GBP 2 billion in taxes, and directly employs more than 44,000 workers.

What is your understanding of the development level of the British gambling market and how it is perceived by the State and society?

While we still have ongoing discussions as to whether gambling legalization was a “good” idea, in the UK, the industry association is asking the government to help the gambling sector on behalf of the entire industry without ringing any alarm bells. Can you imagine that today in Ukraine legal gambling may appeal to the State, for example, for tax breaks or subsidies due to the war?

While populists in Ukraine continue to propagate the “harmfulness” of gambling, in Britain, gambling is perceived as a full-scale economy sector generating billions of pounds for the budget and creating tens of thousands of jobs. And most importantly, like any other economy sector, such as agriculture or engineering, in a difficult economic environment, it can rely on the support of the entire state apparatus.

Since legal gambling is the newest economy sector in Ukraine, it cannot yet boast of such development. The specialized law on gambling taxation 2713-d has not yet been adopted, and law enforcement agencies have failed to close thousands of illegal gambling halls. Legal gambling is still attacked by some populists and politicians avoiding the topic of illegal operators.

In fact, much still needs to be done to build a powerful and civilized legal gambling market in Ukraine. And we need to work on all fronts at once since changes should occur not only in the tax or regulatory spheres but also in the very perception of gambling by the population and decision-makers. As in the entire civilized world, society should finally begin to see gambling as entertainment, not something suspicious.

The good news is that today this path is chosen by the State, represented by the Commission for Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (CRGL) and licensed gambling operators, who, even in times of war, continue to pay license fees, taxes, and support the State as part of their volunteer initiatives.

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


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