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Ukraine’s president backs gambling at hotels

| By Daniel O'Boyle

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has expressed his support for the introduction of gambling at licenced five-star hotels.

Speaking at a press conference, Zelensky publicly threw his weight behind a bill approved by cabinet ministers last month (30 September), which would permit gambling “exclusively on the territory of hotels, with use of gambling equipment with software that meets international standards.” 

Zelensky said the bill would be the “first stage” of legalised gambling in Ukraine, suggesting that further regulation of the market may follow.

The Ukrainian president echoed Prime Minister Alexei Goncharuk’s sentiment that the bill should help curtail the presence of illegal slot machines on the streets, stating that the bill could limit the amount of problem gambling in the country.

“We will reduce the number of people gambling away the last of their money,” the president said. “These are mostly ordinary people.”

The president also provided further detail about the conditions needed for a licence, stating that hotels in Kiev applying for a gambling licence will need at least 200 rooms, while hotels elsewhere will need at least 150.

Zelensky said he hoped the provision would convince hotel companies to invest in the country.

“We have five star hotels on the market, but they are very small,” Zelensky said. “There is no way to build a casino yet. We need to test how people will fight for these licences. We want hotels to be built.”

Zelensky added that he hoped all the money from casino licences, which he said would be “very expensive,” will go towards education and recreation.

“We need to build playgrounds and swimming pools in schools this year. Let's give all this money for a licence to sports,” Zelensky said.

On 3 September, Zelensky called for legislation to legalise gambling in the country in a meeting with party leaders following July’s parliamentary election.

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.

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