Ukraine passes bill to legalise gambling

The bill now requires the signature of Ukraine's president.
The bill now requires the signature of Ukraine's president.

The Ukrainian legislature has passed a long-awaited bill to regulate land-based and online gambling in the country.

Ukraine.- The National Legislature, Verkhovna Rada, has finally passed a long-awaited bill to regulate land-based and online gambling in the country.

Bill 2285-D passed its second reading by 248 votes in favour and 95 against and will legalise online gambling, bookmaking and land-based casinos in the country, although the latter can be located in hotels only.

The Bill that has finally been approved was promoted by the legislator Oleg Marusyak and was just one of six alternatives put forward to the reforms proposed by the Servant of the People Party-led government in Parliament in October. 

It has been a long time coming. The Bill failed its first reading in December, but passed a subsequent vote in January after it was amended to increase the legal age for gambling to 21.

It was then subjected to more than 100 further amendments that have yet to be made public.

The last version of the Bill published ahead of the second reading this week set licence fees for online gambling at UAH30.7m (€1million) to be paid every five years.

For bookmakers the fee mentioned was UAH70.8million, while hotel-based casinos would pay a flat fee of UAH121.6million in the capital Kyiv and UAH70.8million elsewhere in the country.

The Bill is believed to prohibit Russian ownership of gambling operators and businesses with Russian suppliers of land-based slots. A previous prohibition of online advertising and use of affiliates has been dropped.

Although the Bill has now been passed, Ukraine’s legislature must now pass a separate bill on how the regulated gambling industry will be taxed before it can move forward. There are five competing bills on gambling taxation up for consideration.

The Bill also still requires the signature of Ukraine’s President Volodymir Zelensky to take force, but Zelensky is known to be a supporter of regulated gambling, while clamping down on unlicensed operators.

The Bill’s approval has been welcomed by operators such as the Ukraine’s own Parimatch.

According to local press, one of the first hotels likely to apply to host a casino is the five-star The Kharkiv Palace Hotel, which is owned by businessman Oleksandr Yaroslavsky in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city.

Ukraine banned all gambling with the exception of state-run lotteries in 2009 following a fire at a gaming hall in Dnipropetrovsk in which nine people died.

So far this year, courts in Ukraine have ordered internet service providers to block access to around 100 unlicensed iGaming sites.

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