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Ukraine regulator prioritises “isolation of Russia” from gambling market

| By Zak Thomas-Akoo
Acting head of the Ukrainian Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) Olena Vodolashko said that the “isolation of Russian in the gambling sphere” is the key priority for her commission.

During an interview with the Ukrinform news agency published on the regulator’s website, Vodolashko outlined KRAIL’s thinking and work regulating the gambling industry during wartime. The regulated gambling market is relatively new in Ukraine, having been legalised in August 2020. The laws were updated the following year with increased responsible gambling provisions.

She explained KRAIL’s multi-pronged approach, which has involved appeals to the international gaming community, severing Russian business relationships, the application of sanctions on Russian entities and a strong focus on Russian money-laundering efforts.

The 2020 law to legalise various forms of gambling in Ukraine already included rules against Russian-controlled businesses entering the market, due to the Russian occupation of Crimea.

“Since 24 February, our priority in work has become the isolation of Russia in the gambling sphere,” said Vodolashko. “The commission called on the international gambling community to join the sanctions and limit the participation in games of residents of the Russian Federation with the introduction of appropriate changes to the rules of gambling organisers.”

One more recent work has been a campaign against Russian-linked gambling organisations, such as online betting operator 1xBet. KRAIL received some criticism in the Ukrainian press for moving too slowly to remove 1xBet from the market, with the company eventually having its licence cancelled following intervention from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Vodolashko defended the Commission’s work in this regard.

“Our position is legality, transparency and impartiality,” she said. “We have clearly defined laws and licence conditions – we work according to them. Our goal is not to be silent, but to be effective.

“After receiving documentary confirmations from the Bureau of Economic Security, as we stated, a decision was immediately made to cancel the licence.”

The KRAIL head also pointed to the organisation’s efforts in appealing to the wider European community as a way to push forward its message:

“The Commission also appealed to the European Forum of Gambling Business Regulators (GREF) to support Ukraine and disseminate relevant information regarding Russian military aggression,” she said.

“The Association of European Lotteries (EL) also supported our country and suspended the membership of lottery operators from Russia and Belarus. We also appealed to the representatives of foreign companies supplying software regarding the termination of partnership and business relations with the Russian Federation.”     

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