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Who benefits from pressure on legal gambling?


Since the beginning of the year, legal gambling has been under constant information attack organized by black market lobbyists. The media regularly publish materials about the negative consequences of gambling market reform: from "the rapid spread of gambling addiction among Ukrainians" to "tax evasion".

The real state of affairs in the industry and the achievements over the past three and a half years - when in the summer of 2020 the law "On State Regulation of Activities on the Organization and Conduct of Gambling" was adopted, which ended more than eleven years of exclusively illegal gambling in Ukraine and built high-quality and adequate safeguards against the spread of gambling addiction - remain out of the public eye.

All the negativity that is inherent in the functioning of the black market was manipulatively transferred to legal gambling organizers. And the positive remains invisible. The media do not notice almost UAH 11 billion in taxes paid to the state budget by legal gambling businesses in 2023 alone, or UAH 1.969 billion in license fees for the same period, or the constant assistance to the Armed Forces, the military, and social and humanitarian projects at both the state and regional levels from gambling companies.

It seems that this is a targeted campaign to discredit the white market, which aims to bury the gambling reform launched by President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and return to the days of total underground gambling.

It is difficult to assess otherwise both the activities of the media and a number of government agencies, whose officials have blocked the accounts of legal gambling organizers "until the circumstances are clarified" without any grounds, justifying their actions not even by suspicion but only by assumptions(!).

At the same time, despite loud statements about "banning the operation of illegal websites," government authorities and law enforcement agencies are actually neutral in their attitude towards illegal gambling market participants. Today, more than 1,200 websites continue to operate in Ukraine without a license and without any responsibility to players.

I would also like to draw attention to the draft law No. 9256-d, which was adopted by the Parliament in the first reading on April 24, 2024, and which contains a number of corruption components that could negatively affect both the gambling market and the country's economy as a whole. The Chairman of the UGC has already sent an official letter to the NACP regarding the need to conduct a thorough anti-corruption examination of a number of provisions of the draft law.

In particular, the amendments proposed in the draft law 9256-d effectively deprive all legal gambling organizers of the right to advertise their services, equate sponsorship with advertising, and force them to go "underground." This draft law also contains a provision on the liquidation of the CRGL, which will lead to a decrease in state regulatory influence on the market.

In addition, there is a risk of hindering the activities of foreign investors by making it impossible for them to invest in the domestic gambling sector. After all, the document contains a provision prohibiting anyone who "owns directly or indirectly any share of a resident of a foreign state or a state that carries out armed aggression against Ukraine" from being a gambling organizer, which does not contain any time limits. This means that all(!) international gambling brands that have ever operated in russia but left the russian market immediately after the start of the large-scale invasion fall under this article.

For example, the Bet365 brand left the russian market on March 2, 2022, 888 casino on March 14, 2022, PokerStars on March 9, 2022, and William Hill (the world's largest gambling brand) in June 2022. However, all of these brands will not be able to establish business in Ukraine in the future. Therefore, if this draft law is passed, there is no hope of attracting major global brands to Ukraine's economy.

So, I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize once again that the Ukrainian Gambling Council calls on state authorities and the Business Ombudsman Council of Ukraine to stop arbitrariness against licensed market organizers. UGC, as an institution that works to protect the interests of the market, condemns any illegal actions. After all, this is how they want to drive the legal gambling business into the shadows. And the shadow, instead of the white market, is beneficial for illegal gamblers and lottery operators, as they benefit from the next blocking and bans because they are not subject to them.

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