Ukraine gambling bill to get second reading

Ukraine's gambling bill has moved a step forward.
Ukraine's gambling bill has moved a step forward.

A long-debated bill to legalise both online and land-based gambling in Ukraine has finally been approved for a second reading.

Ukraine.- The Committee on Finance, Tax and Customs Policy this week gave its approval to a revised version of the country’s gambling bill, allowing it to progress to a second reading in parliament.

Bill 2285-D was first put forward by legislator Oleg Marusyak as one of six alternative options to the initial proposed gambling reforms submitted by the Ukraine government in October 2019.

The bill passed a first reading in January 2020 but was stalled and is reported to have since undergone numerous modifications which have not been made public.

The government has recently made moves to attempt to accelerate the process in order to legalise gambling before the end of the year.

Andriy Motovilovets, a deputy in the governing Servant of the People Party and a member of the Committee on Finance, Tax and Customs Policy, said: “The Committee almost unanimously supported the creation of a new gambling market and now asks for the support of the Verkhovna Rada. We are fully ready for the second reading.”

However, much of the delay has stemmed from disagreements between members of the governing party and the opposition party, Voice, over the changes made to the original bill, which reportedly include removing a limit of 40,000 gaming machines in the country and a prohibition on machines being placed within 500m of a school.

Opposition deputies Halyna Vasylchenko and Yaroslav Zhelezniak walked out of this week’s committee hearing on the bill in protest against the modifications. They are also reported to want slot machines to be limited to five-star hotels while revisions to the bill would now allow machines at three and four-star properties.

Of several initial bills put forward to parliament in late 2019 and early 2020, Marusyak’s current bill proposes the lowest licence fee for online gambling: at UAH6.7million (€222,800).

The minimum licence fee for casinos in hotels would be UAH41.7million for hotels with 200-250 rooms and UAH62.6million for hotels with 250 or more rooms. The fees would be adjusted for inflation by tracking the country’s minimum wage.

Betting licences would be awarded by region, with licensees granted rights to run five betting shops each.

If the bill is passed after its second reading, Ukraine must still decide how much licensees are to be taxed, with four separate bills on the table. The bill put forward by Marusyak and Marian Zablotskyi proposes an annual rate of 25 per cent for all gambling and lotteries, but alternative proposals include a range of rates for different sectors or no specific tax at all.

As the debate continues, the Ukraine has begun to enforce current anti-gambling laws more strictly, issuing blocking orders against iGaming sites.

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