Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s supreme parliamentary council voted in favor of a statewide gambling law on Tuesday at the bill’s second reading in a 248-95 landslide victory. The gambling bill dubbed 2285-D was promoted by legislator Oleg Marusyak, being one of six other alternatives to the reforms that the ruling party, Servant of the People (SoP) Party had put forward to national legislature back in October 2019.
At first, the bill was voted against during its first reading in December last year but after a couple of amendments which included the raising of the legal gambling age to 21, it was voted in come January 2020. After that, the bill was subjected to over 100 more amendments that haven’t yet been disclosed to the public before it was taken through the second reading. Per the newly assented bill 2285-D both retail and online casino and sports betting would be legal, but casinos will only be allowed to operate in hotels.
Highlights of Ukraine’s Gambling Act
Based on the version of the bill that was okayed by Ukraine’s Committee on Finance, Tax and Customs policy this week before it headed to parliament for the second reading, online casino operators will part with $1.1 million in license fees. This online casino license for operators is subject to renewal every five years. For bookmakers, on the other hand, the license fee was set at $2.6 million.
Additionally, brick and mortar casinos operated in hotels in Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, will pay a flat license fee worth $4.5 million whereas casino facilities in hotels elsewhere in the country will pay $2.6m for the operation license.
This edition of the bill also lays down some pretty specific restrictions on the source and proprietorship of gambling businesses in the country. Part of the bill states that all casino operators and suppliers of land-based slot machine cabinets “must not be controlled by residents of an occupying state and/or the aggressor state in relation to Ukraine”
Sources close to the matter indicate that this section of the bill basically bars Russians from owning or being part of the managerial team of gambling operations in the country and forbids operators from doing business with Russian suppliers of retail slot machines. But then again, there’s no clarification on whether the clause is also applicable to other forms of suppliers such as online gaming content providers apart from the land-based slots alone.
Initially, there was a ban on online advertising and the use of affiliate marketing for online gaming but that prohibition was scrapped off from the bill at the committee stage
Even though the 2285-D bill has already moved forward, Ukraine’s parliamentary council is still tasked with passing a separate bill that is supposed to address taxation matters before anything else related to gaming can proceed. Right now, five different taxation bills are being considered for the country’s upcoming gambling industry.
Homestretch for Ukrainian Gaming
Before the Verkhovna Rada-approved bill officially comes into effect, two more signatures are required. The Committee Secretariat of the national legislature has to sign it off within 10 days and after that, it should be forwarded to President Volodymyr Zelensky in no more than a week. The nation’s premier on his part has a 15-day window to evaluate bill 2285-D before giving it his official approval and signing it into the Ukrainian federal law.
Thankfully President Zelensky is a known supporter of a regulated gambling supporter who is also against unlicensed operators, and thus, there’s no doubt that he’s going to give the bill a thumbs up.
Aside from the state-run lotteries, all other forms of gambling in the country were banned in 2009 after 9 residents lost their lives in a freak fire accident that occurred in a slots’ parlor in Dnipropetrovsk, the fourth largest city in Ukraine. Since then, the next time that lawmakers started pushing to legalize gambling was 6 years later in 2015 when they introduced a new bill, an effort that has taken 5 more years to bear fruition.