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Who stands to gain if the role of gambling legalization in social impact assessment is artificially downplayed?

A year and a half ago, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Law of Ukraine “On the State Regulation of Activities Concerning Organization and Conduct of Gambling” and brought the gambling business into the legal fold.

Until then, since 2009, no politician had ever mentioned or publicly encouraged to address a number of social and legal issues resulting from the emergence of the illegal gambling market after the ban on this sector.

For some reason, until mid-2020, the Ukraine’s political establishment chose to turn a blind eye to everything:

·      the issue of gambling addiction (ludomania) among players in illegal casinos;
·      total insecurity for winners or players in illegal establishments;
·      lack of state or local budget revenues from the gambling business;
·      increasing crime rates in areas adjacent to the locations of illegal gambling establishments, etc.

As if these problems never existed.

And now, when the legal gambling market began to emerge, when most illegal gambling halls were removed from the streets, when players and their families were granted legal protection, some of our politicians decided to notice social harm associated with gambling.

And instead of initiating the fight against illegal market actors who had gone deeper into the shadows, politicians began to oppose legal gambling operators who, during one year, paid license fees, creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and made multimillion-dollar hard currency investments in the Ukrainian economy.

When the national regulator developed responsible gaming principles, and operators began to implement such principles in their work, when the register of gambling addicts was created and the procedure for introducing self-restrictions and restrictions on access to gambling at the request of players’ relatives was established, the media were flooded with the opinions of some politicians that “the legal market causes gambling addiction.”

Once the national regulator, gambling market operators and law enforcement agencies joined hands in fighting against illegal actors and took steps to ensure the safety of players and implementation of legislation on preventing persons under 21 from gambling, some politicians became “deeply concerned” about the possible access to gambling by children and teenagers.

By the way, when slot machine halls were on every street corner in every town, for some reason they could not care less about it.

When in 2021, the state budget received more than UAH 1.7 billion of direct revenues only from license fees paid by legal gambling market operators, and budgets of different levels received almost UAH 30 billion of additional state budget revenues from the development of related business sectors, some politicians stated that “legalization fell short of forecasts and little money was received.”

At the same time, they failed to notice that the illegal market pays no taxes at all! In addition, they do not mention the need to adopt changes to tax legislation, which would harmonize the gambling taxation system (which international companies look for in order to enter the Ukrainian market), thus allowing the Ukrainian budget to receive many times more taxes and fees from this economy sector.

As a result, we have a broad information campaign not only against the legal gambling market, but also against Ukraine’s sovereign interests.

At great sacrifice, the country made a political choice in favour of European values and chose the road of rationalization of politics and economy, and President Zelensky demonstrated the political will to get rid of corruption schemes in the gambling industry.

This provided protection to Ukrainian citizens, formed an additional source of revenue for the Ukrainian budget, and attracted foreign direct investment in foreign currency.

And at the same time, populists and corrupt officials at different levels, in fact, carry out anti-State and anti-Ukrainian activities for their own ends.
Viktoriya Zakrevskaya