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Focus on gambling addiction is the most common manipulation of black market lobbyists

Gambling was one of the first types of economic activity subject to licensing back in the 1990s. However, during the first 18 years of independence, the Ukrainian parliament did not find time to legislate the gambling market. However, in May 2009, it managed to pass a law banning gambling, which lasted for more than eleven years until August 2020, when the presidential reform to legalize gambling and form a new civilized market began.

And during this entire period, i.e. from 1991 to 2009, when gambling regulation was no different from the regulation of tobacco or alcohol sales, and during the 2009-2020 legislative ban on gambling, neither politicians, media, nor "opinion leaders" were interested in the topic of gambling addiction (ludomania).

Politicians, activists, law enforcement officers and local authorities did not care that slot machines were sticking out of almost every public transport stop, that after 2009 an illegal gambling establishment was located next to a pawnshop and a currency exchange kiosk, that even schoolchildren could play on these machines and in these establishments without any obstacles.

It was only after the black market's position was shaken by the gambling legalization reform and the emergence of legal gambling market organizers, slot machines were removed from transport stops, opportunities to attract teenagers to the game were limited, etc. that the media began to report fantastic stories about the insane level of ludomania in Ukraine and the threats posed by mass gambling.

Before the full-scale war, the most common topic about gambling addicts was the story of a "pensioner who lost his pension, took everything from his apartment to a pawnshop and pawned the apartment." With the outbreak of a full-scale war, the story of a "soldier/officer who serves "on zero" and loses all his allowance in an online casino" became popular. However, it is not so easy to find such a "retired gambling addict" before the war and a "gambling soldier/officer" during the war. And this is not surprising, because there was no massive problem of gambling addiction among either civilians or the military.

To demonstrate this with facts, let's turn to research and statistics. Only about 7% of Ukrainians are willing to gamble for money. By the way, this figure is much higher in EU countries and reaches 30%+. That means that there are only about 1.5 million potential players in Ukraine. Currently, there are about 1 million people in the ranks of the Armed Forces and the Territorial Defence. Accordingly, there are approximately 70 thousand potential players there, as the proportion of those who want to play in the army is unlikely to be significantly different from the overall figure for the country.

According to the data of the Register of of Persons with Restricted Access to Gambling Facilities and/or Participation in Gambling, as of the beginning of May 2024, 6933 people with gambling problems were registered in Ukraine. And these are not 6933 people with gambling addiction, these are 6933 people whose possible problems were warned by themselves or their family members. It is about the problems, not the disease. Because doctors should diagnose gambling addiction, and entering the Register is a preventive measure.

In other words, over more than 3.5 years of gambling reform, about 0.03% of the country's adult population has been identified as potentially addicted to the game! I would like to remind you that the statistical error of sociological surveys usually ranges between 2-3%. That is, there are 100 times less potential gambling addicts than the standard error of sociological surveys!

Unfortunately, this is completely ignored by legislators who hype the topic of gambling addicts and "fighting gambling addiction among the military" and vote for bills aimed at eliminating the legal gambling market and lobbying for lottery operators. I would like to remind you that the draft law No. 9256-d recently adopted in the first reading is about this very thing. It does not contain any mechanisms aimed at preventing and protecting the military from gambling addiction. It also does not contain even a hint of strengthening the fight against illegal gambling or improving the conditions for the development of the legal gambling market.

Therefore, I must state once again: the emphasis on gambling addiction that is currently spreading in many publications, blogs and news about gambling is the most common manipulation of black market lobbyists aimed at discrediting gambling reform in Ukraine.



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