Legalization of the gambling industry in Ukraine. To be or not to be
In the summer of 2009, the gambling business was banned in Ukraine, but its representatives disappeared only from the list of taxpayers. In reality, all clubs simply put on uniforms with the name “lottery” or “computer club”, and continue to work underground to this day. The first attempts to turn this sphere into a legal direction were made back in 2015. However, the law on deshadowing was then rejected by the Verkhovna Rada committee. In 2016, Yuriy Lutsenko advocated for the official permission of the casino. Arsen Avakov also spoke out on this topic more than once and promised radical action. Outside the window is already 2019, 10 years have passed since the ban on gambling, and talk about possible legalization does not subside, although there are still no results. Why is the ban not working and who is covering it? People’s Deputy Dmytro Belotserkovets from the Petro Poroshenko Bloc party claims that it is not so simple to bring the gambling business out of the shadows in Ukraine: “Why is it that today we have such a big problem with legalization? Firstly, when the restriction was introduced, it was demonstrated politically in such a way that pensioners go and lose their last pension in these machines.” The deputy says that it was indeed the right decision to remove vending machines from bus and railway stations, but in addition to prohibitions, some actions should have been proposed. That is why there is a problem: everyone knows about the ban, and at the same time everyone knows that it works. The Ukrainians did not play less, and the number of clubs has not changed. “Any person can safely go to play, although it is illegal, and if it is illegal, then what do we have? That someone is making money off this,” he adds. Yuriy Chizhmar, Doctor of Law and People’s Deputy from Oleg Lyashko’s Radical Party, notes that slot machine halls continue to work and can be found on the central streets of regional centers and even in the heart of the capital on Khreshchatyk: “These casinos are functioning and flourishing, along with illegal incomes of law enforcement officers who buy cars, houses and live off this flourish with them. Yuriy Derevianko, a non-factional people’s deputy, clarified who exactly receives “left incomes” from this and “protects illegal immigrants.” In his commentary, not the names of the highest officials were mentioned, but entire state services – the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Security Service of Ukraine and the Presidential Administration. “Formally, everything is prohibited, but in reality everything works. All casinos work, all slot machines work, all this goes in black cash, ”- Yuriy Derevyanko. Victor Krivenko, the political party “Association “Self-Help””, also claims that everything continues to work and only the blind can not see it. At each bus stop there are 3-4 such competing clubs with closed windows: “In fact, everything works. Nearby there is an exchanger and a pawnshop. Today, all this is “protected” by criminals in soldering with law enforcement officers.” According to Olena Sotnyk, a people’s deputy from the Samopomich party, it is ordinary Ukrainians who suffer the most from the casino ban. It is the citizens of Ukraine, taxpayers, who receive less budget funds that could be used for medicine, education, and improving the comfort of people’s lives. How to legalize correctly? According to Dmitry Belotserkovets, the process of legalization should be started gradually, and probably with small steps, for example, to raise the issue of the Internet space first: Let’s legalize the Internet gaming business at least from the beginning, as in many countries. All the same, those people who want to play, they will play – at home, on foreign sites. So let’s give the opportunity to get a license at least for online casinos. The deputy believes that this will not only bring profit to the state, but also become a normal start of a conversation about the full legalization of gambling. Belotserkovets says that there is no specific plan of action, although everyone understands that concrete steps are already needed. According to him, the main player cannot be an individual deputy, because it is not a fact that such a deputy is not a lobbyist of the idea. It is the Cabinet of Ministers that should generalize the position of the country and propose a draft law: There is no general plan, the generation of an idea should come from the Cabinet of Ministers, in my opinion. They should come up with the initiative, and the rules should be discussed in discussions at the level of Parliament. We all close our eyes to what the gaming industry really is. It is not legal, the state does not profit, and we must end this. Elena Sotnik comments on the issue of lifting the ban on the gambling industry: “I am definitely for legalization, I am for transparent rules, for the fact that a business that already exists would pay taxes. I would pay them officially to the state income. And the state, for its part, could simply control the quality of the relevant businesses and relevant services with licenses and other formats, permits, so that they do not violate the law.” As Belotserkovets notes, many are interested in the gaming business remaining in the shadows and the adoption of such a bill will be hindered: Until this happens (the adoption of the law on legalization – Ed.) – there will be populism, because a large number of people who turn left to right profiting from the gaming industry are interested in the fact that there were no rules, and will do anything to disrupt the adoption of these rules at the level of Parliament. Sergey Melnichuk adds that there are several bills from different associations and they are already being discussed: “The conversation is underway, and I think it is necessary to bring it up for discussion by the society, for discussion in committees, in the Cabinet of Ministers and continue to take steps to legalize everything that we have driven into shadow”. What is good about legal casinos? Belotserkovets believes that today there is a certain myth. If legalization is carried out, then again pensioners will lose all their money. This will not happen: “No, we should not legalize it the way it was. We will never return to this. And what is needed? It is to remove this myth.” It is necessary to clearly show that the gambling business in Ukraine will work according to the established rules.” “When we reach out to the IMF and tell them that it is hard for us, let’s remember our capabilities. Where is the legalization of the gaming business? No. Who is profiting from this today? Law enforcement agencies. That’s the whole life,” Borislav Rosenblat, people’s deputy, non-factional. Not everyone understands that the legalization of casinos will make it possible to fill the state budget. Dmitry Belotserkovets adds that it is simply necessary to indicate the necessary sources and direct the proceeds from the legalization of the industry, for example, to replenish the pension fund. “We will not have a pension deficit with you, and we will be able to index pensions more often,” he says. Taking the gambling business out of the shadows can bring significant benefits to the economy and, first of all, to tourism. Anna Romanova, a people’s deputy from the Samopomich Association faction, sees this as a huge opportunity. Small and medium-sized businesses will profit from the influx of tourists who come to play in Ukrainian casinos. Players not only spend money in gambling clubs, but also visit expensive restaurants, theaters, museums, and rent hotel rooms. How will the Ukrainian Las Vegas work? Anna Romanova insists that the state should take care of ordinary citizens: “It should be civilized, in 5-4-star hotels, and of course, entry into this playing area should be prohibited for persons who, for example, are under 22 years old “. According to the deputy, it is necessary not to allow visitors who carry the last salary to such establishments. To do this, you can enter, for example, a mandatory dress code. So, in the future, only wealthy Ukrainians in expensive suits will be able to enter the casino. Anna adds that it is worth using the experience of Georgia and the Czech Republic: a symbolic license fee for the construction of a hotel with a casino, the allocation of separate territories in economically depressed regions for gambling zones. Borislav Rosenblat supports Romanova’s opinion and says that the emphasis should still be on the rich casino clients: “They should be in separate zones, these zones should be separated from cities, these should be airports, these should be large five-star hotels, so that they are inaccessible to ordinary citizens. Rosenblat adds that the casino should not be located at every intersection. A simple Ukrainian, believing that this is the only chance to get rich, pulls the last thing from his house and goes to lose, and this must be nipped in the bud. Yuri Derevyanko also advocates tight control of the casino industry and the removal of such establishments into separate zones and high-class hotels. This will allow for a substantive discussion of investment: “We can clearly write out in the legislation and this must be done that there are certain territories and or hotels of a certain class where any investor can carry out such a business.” According to Derevyanko, the main control will be exercised by the tax authorities: “The Fiscal Service will also control electronic sensors, electronic counters, absolutely all gaming tables, absolutely all types of gambling business.” “We need to adopt a law to legalize the gambling business, as it works in all civilized countries of the world. If someone wants to, who has extra money, they go, lose, the state has earned, ”Sergey Shakhov. Yuriy Chyzhmar says that the sphere of gambling business should be created in tourist centers – in Bukovel, Lvov, Odessa. Non-factional MP Andrei Biletsky insists that casinos should be opened away from cities: “They should undoubtedly be driven into something like Las Vegas, that is, into gambling zones far from big cities, and then this will benefit the country.” Viktor Krivenko also notes that it is necessary to remove casinos from Ukrainian cities, first of all, in order to protect the younger generation: “Removing them to separate territories both to increase tourism potential and to reduce accessibility, first of all, for young people. There should be clear control and non-admission of gambling addiction. Behind-the-scenes discussions and discussions about how to carry out legalization continue. People’s deputies seem to be in favor, but no concrete action has taken place. Some note that the colossus of legalization will probably budge only after the presidential and parliamentary elections, since it is obvious that those in power now remain those who benefit from keeping the casino underground.