After a long and tortuous passage it looks like legalised betting is back on the books in Ukraine.
The country’s Verkhovna Rada legislature has passed a bill—known as Bill 2285-D—at the second reading to regulate both land-based and online gambling with a convincing 248-95 majority vote.
The bill failed to pass at its first reading in December last year but then jumped its first legislative hurdle in January this year when amended with the provision that the proposed legal gambling age be raised to 21-years.
Now the bill just needs to be signed by President Volodymir Zelensky to become law. And the omens look good, as Zelensky is known to be a strong supporter of regulated gambling.
All gambling–except state-run lotteries—was outlawed in Ukraine in 2009, after nine people were killed in a fire at a slots parlour in Dnepropetrovsk in the east of the nation.
The country’s pro-gambling lobby has been trying to reintroduce legal gambling since 2015.
Now they’re on the cusp of success.
Under the new bill; online gambling, bookmaking and land-based casinos will all be legal; although casinos can only be located in hotels.
Proposed licence fees for online gambling operators have been set at UAH30.7m (US$1.1m), to be paid when a licence is renewed every five years.
Bookmakers’ licence fees will be UAH70.8m (US$2.54m); with a flat fee of UAH121.6m (US$4.3m) for casinos located in hotels in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and a UAH70.8m (US$2.54m) fee for casinos in hotels elsewhere.
Significantly–in a pointed and patent slap-down to Russia and Russian businesses–the pending legislation unequivocally bans “residents of an occupying state or aggressor state” from investing in any of the new gaming sectors.
Russia and Ukraine have been locked in a low-level war over a breakaway insurgency in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region since 2014, following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea peninsular.
Ukrainian legislators, meantime, are still fencing over tax rates for the gambling industry.
The best bet looks like the government setting a five per cent tax on bookmaking, 10 per cent on online gambling and lotteries and 12.5 per cent for slot machines.
Other tax rates being mooted include a catch-all 25 per cent levy on all gaming sectors.
As it stands, the new Gambling Law provides a draft legislative framework for eight betting services: Land-based casinos, online casinos, retail sports betting, online sports betting, slot machine halls, online poker, totalizer contracts and lotteries.
As well as individual licensing, each gambling service will be monitored by a national gaming authority that has yet to be formed.