Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers has approved the government’s new Action Program, which includes a draft law that would legalise gambling in the country.
The text of the draft bill is not currently public, but according to the cabinet’s announcement, the law would permit gambling “exclusively on the territory of hotels, with use of gambling equipment with software that meets international standards.”
Prime Minister Alexei Goncharuk said at a press briefing on Monday (30 September) that the bill was motivated by the presence of illegal slot machines around Ukraine.
“The government has drafted a bill on the president's instructions and we voted it on Sunday, it will be tabled in parliament in the next few days,” Goncharuk said. “You know what's going on: you go outside, you see these slot machines, next to the pawnshops. I don't think we need to explain what the problem is.
“A lot of people are suffering from this and we want to protect people who are addicted, because people then have depression, suicides, families are destroyed, people lose money. These are tens of thousands of broken human lives, and we want this to end in Ukraine. There should be no such thing in civilized countries.
“The bill spells out how we propose to regulate gambling, and lotteries will be regulated separately. But the main goal is to remove slot machines from the streets, to reduce this disaster they create for us.”
According to reports from Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda, the bill will include a licence fee of UAH 38m (£1.3m/€1.4mm/$1.5m) for operating a casino in Kiev, UAH 25m for a casino in one of the four other cities with a population of a million or more and UAH 12.5m for a casino anywhere else.
The cost of a bookmaking licence will be set by a new body, but must not be lower than UAH 750,000 while a slot machine licence will cost UAH 7.5m and a poker license UAH 1.3m. All licence fees are set in reference to the minimum wage and would increase with any minimum wage rises.
All gambling except state-run lotteries became illegal in Ukraine in 2009, after nine people were killed in a fire at a slots parlour in Dnipropetrovsk in the east of the nation, but the country has looked to reintroduce legal gambling since 2015, when a new bill to legalise and regulate gambling activities across the country was introduced.
The country’s government had previously pledged in April 2017 to legalise gambling by 2018, and earlier this month, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, commissioned the country’s new government to pass laws to legalise gambling by the end of this year as part of a range of measures designed to stimulate the economy.