Ukraine’s parliament approves gambling bill at first reading

| By Daniel O'Boyle
Ukraine’s legislature has approved a bill that would legalise gambling in the country in its first reading, with 260 of the country’s 450 deputies voting in favour.

Ukraine’s legislature has approved a bill that would legalise gambling in the country in its first reading, with 260 of the country’s 450 deputies voting in favour.

The bill, 2285-D, was introduced by Oleg Marusyak as one of six alternatives to the reforms submitted by the Servant of the People Party-led government in Parliament in October.

Eastern Europe-facing operator Parimatch hailed the bill's passing its first reading, noting that legal gambling could boost the Ukrainian economy.

“The adoption of Bill 2285-D in its first reading is the first step towards creating a fair and transparent Online Casino gambling market, which will in turn attract investment and introduce new technology to the country,” Parimatch said.

“Once legalised, the market will create thousands of jobs, contribute to both state and local budgets, lead to an increase in tourism, and will help to counter corruption in professional sports. Also, the increased tax revenues generated will provide much needed funds to support culture, medicine, and sports in Ukraine.”

Marusyak’s bill includes a licence fee for online gambling of UAH59.0m (£1.8m/€2.0m/$2.2m).

The bill also includes a minimum licence fee of UAH141.7m for casinos in hotels with 200-250 rooms and a fee of UAH283.3m for casinos in hotels with 250 or more rooms. These licence fees will track the country’s minimum wage to adjust for inflation.

The bill would determine bookmaking licences through a system where each licensee would have the rights to open 5 bookmaking shops. 32 bookmaking licences would be available in Kyiv, 16 between Ukraine’s other large cities of Odes and Kharkov and a further 32 in the rest of the country.

The number of gambling machines is limited to 40,000 and players must be 21 to gamble, an increase from 18, which it had been in an earlier version of the bill which did not pass when read in December.

In addition, it proposed a register for self-excluded players and the distribution of responsible gambling information to staff.

The bill will now face a second reading, before which further details – such as the tax rate on gambling – may be worked out for inclusion in the final bill.

“Deputies in Ukraine shoulder great responsibility when preparing the bill for its second reading, which must meet the highest international standards for legalizing the gambling industry,” Parimatch said.

“Parimatch is open to dialogue and working with lawmakers as part of the finalization of the bill. We are happy to share our comprehensive global expertise and knowledge gained over the years operating as a successful, internationally focused and responsible gambling company.”

If passed at the second reading, it will be presented to President Volodymyr Zelensky and if signed will become law. Zelensky has pushed for legal gambling in Ukraine, ordering a new gambling bill in the country in September 2019 and putting his support behind Oleg Marusyak’s law in December when it went to an earlier vote.

Zelensky previously threatened to strictly enforce the country’s existing anti-gambling laws if a framework for legal gambling was not adopted.

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