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Big politics and gambling: International experience vs Ukrainian practice


The joint position of any smart business is not to get involved in politics. Analysing global trends, it is safe to say that gambling is no exception. It is hard to find gambling companies willing to play political games.


However, despite the distance between gambling and politics, it should be noted that this area strongly depends on political decisions. And the Ukrainian experience proves that an economically unjustified and emotionally motivated political decision always has negative consequences.


For instance, the legislative ban on the legal gambling market in 2009 resulted in the emergence of a powerful black market protected by law enforcement officers and politicians of different ranks for more than a decade. This ban created a powerful “corruption tiger” that we have to fight even today.


And vice versa, the legalization of gambling in 2020 at the initiative of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyi, being part of a broad economy de-shadowing program, led to the establishment of a legal gambling market operating on the responsible gambling principles and providing funds to the budgets of all levels in the form of taxes and license fees.


Also, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of russian troops into Ukraine, all Ukrainian licensed gambling operators have been actively helping the State by funding various humanitarian and social projects, volunteering, directly funding, and providing ammunition and equipment for the AFU, territorial defence units and volunteer units in local communities. But no gambling company finances political parties or their projects, which was the case before russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.


On the other hand, in the West, the gambling market is a popular place of work among consultants or advisers who previously occupied top political jobs. Why? It is for gambling not to interfere in political processes but to professionally distinguish between politics and GR dialogue with public authorities.


A striking example of this approach is the recent appointment of James Schultz as Executive Vice President, Head of Public Policy and Government Affairs of the US-based Scientific Games company.


Schultz will be responsible for joint government affairs, public policy, and advocacy to support Scientific Games’ global business development plans. Before this appointment, Schultz worked as a partner at the Holland & Knight multinational law firm. And before that, he was a senior adviser and special assistant to the President of the United States, Donald Trump, for almost a year.


Schultz also served as General Counsel and First Executive Deputy General Counsel to former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and was in the transition team of newly elected Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro. Today, James Schultz uses his experience as public administration advisor to advance the Scientific Games’ mission to create safe and sustainable solutions.


One can only hope that the world’s best examples of GR will become a model for the domestic gambling industry.


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