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Unjustified attacks on legal gambling are gaining momentum

Having lost hope that the legal gambling market would not be able to withstand the challenges posed by the war, illegal gamblers hoped for its rapid decline and the curtailment of the reform. When they realized that this did not happen and legal organizers were able to keep their business and continued to pay billions of hryvnias to the state budget, illegal gamblers returned to actively discrediting the legal market through the media. Such behavior is beneficial for illegal gamblers, as they accuse legal gambling of something that is actually their fault.

Illegal gamblers continue to attack legal gambling by manipulating public opinion. They create a negative image for the industry, emphasizing that the legalization of gambling has led to the spread of gambling addiction, in particular among the military, and that legal organizers avoid paying taxes.

At the same time, this manipulative media stream of paid-for articles and interviews with "experts" does not mention the illegal gambling sector, the online segment of which is represented by at least 1,200 websites. The number of illegal gambling halls is even more difficult to calculate. It is also interesting that a very active position in the discrediting campaign is taken by lottery operators, who are probably one of the most brazen illegal gamblers today.

Thus, it seems that the problems with the spread of gambling addiction, tax evasion, etc. appeared after the legalization of gambling. This thesis is absolutely absurd, as the gambling market was banned from 2009 to 2020. And it did not work at all, as thousands of illegal gambling halls and hundreds of websites operated across the country.

After legalization, the difference between the illegal and legal gambling sector became very clear. A business appeared that was ready to play by the rules, pay license fees and taxes, while illegal operators wanted to continue working in the shadows. That is why, feeling threatened by legal organizers, they launched a large-scale media campaign to discredit the reform almost immediately after it was implemented in 2020.

Moreover, the theses aimed at discrediting the reform are actively supported by some high-ranking officials, including the head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Tax Policy Hetmantsev and the MPs under his control. But do they mention the negative impact of illegal immigrants on players and the state budget? Of course not.

In his recent post, Ivan Rudyi, the head of the CIEL, also drew attention to the injustice of these attacks. He cited some very interesting examples of populist theses that, due to their manipulative nature, quickly gain publicity in society, but are in fact false.

For example, the thesis that, according to the NBU, in 2023, Ukrainians spent about UAH 400 million in online casinos every day. Reading this, one should understand that there is a very big difference between "spent" and "lost". After all, "spent" reflects the movement of funds on gambling accounts, i.e., account deposits are also counted as "spending" by players. However, the source of account replenishment can also be the payment of winnings and betting refunds, which, by the way, according to KRAIL, account for 70-80% of the movement of funds on deposits.

Another popular thesis is that money spent on gambling could be transferred to the Armed Forces as donations. This comparison is absolutely incorrect. First, if a player wants to gamble, he or she will find a way to do it. Instead of a legal online casino, he will go to an illegal one, which will not only ruin himself but also support an illegal business that does not pay any taxes. Secondly, players who are used to playing exclusively in legal casinos, not having such an opportunity, will not necessarily spend money to help the military. By the way, it would be interesting to see how much lottery players have donated to the Armed Forces of Ukraine over the 2 years of full-scale war with Russia.

Of course, discrediting legal gambling is only beneficial to illegal gamblers. Unfortunately, their efforts have been somewhat successful, as social media are currently actively discussing the need to ban gambling. Undoubtedly, this idea is doomed to failure and is a significant step backwards in terms of the civilized perception of gambling by Ukrainian society. The 11 years of gambling prohibition have clearly demonstrated that it does not work, and therefore all manipulations around the legal gambling market have only one goal - to return to the "gray" times. And this is not beneficial to anyone except the illegal players themselves.



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