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Betting in Ukraine

Published on: 08/08/2016

Ukraine achieved independence in 1991, having previously been under Russian rule for hundreds of years. However, even before the end of the cold war, Ukraine had enjoyed a lottery which was called the Molod’SportLoto or MSL. The lottery began in 1973, and is still popular today.

Once Ukrainians had gained independence, the nation’s fondness for gambling became apparent, as many casinos were built nationwide. The authorities had doubts because of the lack of regulations in place to supervise gambling activity, which was being conducted unscrupulously.

By the 21st century, approximately 50 gambling establishments were facilitating slot machines, albeit without official approvals. The majority of them were located in Kiev and were under the Olympic Casinos Brand. Others were available in more remote places and offered games tables such as poker, roulette and blackjack. Many underground lotteries also appeared on the scene. Verkhovna Rada is an official government department which regulates gambling. The Cabinet of Ministers, the State Tax Administration and the Ministry of Finance also offer supervision.

As a way of bringing order to Ukraine’s gambling industry, a new law (N-4204) was initiated in 2003. This law outlined which types of gambling activities would be made legal and also created a basis for legislations. Activities such as dice and card games, bingo, horseracing, roulette and games machines were to be permitted. However, sports wagering was not included. State lotteries were incorporated into a monopoly, with a Unified Operator of State Lotteries offered to tender. A joint stock business was created, with approximately 25% of the shares being owned by the state. The monopoly was granted to MSL, and a further ten state-authorized lotteries were soon made available to the 47 million Ukraine citizens. Tickets were available via 16,000 retail outlets.

As a measure to avoid exploitation from foreigners, the new law proposed that no non-residents would have the rights to own any more than 35% worth of shares in the lottery operations.

Regardless of the regulations, Lotto organizations carried on trading independently from the Finance Ministry. In 2007, amended rules were put into action to keep Ukraine’s gambling and lottery companies under control. Scientific Games was given a five-year deal with MSL to offer helpful services and instant tickets.

Underground gambling activities have boomed due to the lack of discipline. Back in 2009, it was claimed that there were over 100,000 gambling venues throughout Ukraine and they mostly attracted youngsters and poor people. In the same year, a Ukraine gambling venue caught fire and nine people lost their lives. The Prime Minister announced that gambling was “demoralizing Ukraine’s youth and sucking the last savings from families already depressed and squeezed by the economic recession”.

As a consequence, the Verkhovna Rada applied a ban on all types of gambling. Thousands of people went to the Presidential offices to protest against to ban.

The complaints had no effect as in 2010, the government decided to indefinitely exclude gambling from Ukraine’s economics and confirmed that no licences would be issued. In addition, the nation was not to be allowed to promote or wager on any gambling products made available from other countries.

For a brief moment in time, Ukrainian casino websites were able to take advantage of a loophole in the gambling law set in 2009 - however, these local betting companies were soon closed down. Local companies now risk being penalized if they are found hosting internet sportsbooks outside of the country.

Despite local restrictions, there are currently more than 450 foreign based internet gambling companies who welcome play from Ukraine citizens including: