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Anton Kuchukhidze: Human face of legal gambling in Ukraine

The war launched by russia against Ukraine is ravaging not only the economy and business, but also the life, well-being and daily activities of each of us. Job loss, companies out of business, forced displacement from places of permanent residence due to occupation, destruction of homes and infrastructure are the immediate consequences of war.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 4.8 million Ukrainians have fled to other countries. More than 7 million Ukrainians were forced to leave their homes and become internally displaced persons. That is, almost 30% of the country’s population in just 2 months were forced to leave everything to save their lives, and they were mostly left without sources of income.

These are just some of the ravages of war since, economically, hostilities caused a possible reduction of GDP by about 50%, significantly higher levels of unemployment, troubled production, including agriculture, as well as the closure of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises.

When the hostilities are over, we will need years and trillion dollars of investment to restore our State.

All this really hinders Ukraine’s economic development, the pace of which has been quite high in the last couple of years, even despite the crisis caused by COVID-19. By the way, the gambling legalization reform was an integral part of the State’s economic development strategy. The recovery of this entertainment industry sector had four key objectives.

1. Increasing state budget revenues by paying license fees and taxes.
2. Combating illegal gambling and reducing the consequences of its negative impact on the population.
3. Attracting foreign investment into the economy.
4. Creating new jobs.

Since the first year of operation of legal gambling in Ukraine, all these goals have been successfully met. The budget received from legal gambling operators more than UAH 1.7 billion in the form of license fees alone. They created thousands of jobs, invested tens of millions of dollars, revived the hotel business, and introduced effective initiatives to combat gambling addiction. According to experts, the total economic effect of legalization accounted to more than USD 30 billion.

However, the war levelled these positive trends. Today, legal gambling is trying to survive and minimize losses, like all other economy sectors. In the era of war, the situation is the most difficult, of course, for land-based companies, which are forced to close their gambling establishments and cut their staff. This results in the loss of industry professionals who are forced to go back abroad and work in casinos there. Ukraine wanted to get this human capital back at the beginning of legalization. Many professionals were really happy to come back to work in Ukraine’s legal segment, but the war affects people’s lives.

Even online gambling which, due to its specificity and high mobility, adapts more easily to major upheavals, has to cut its staff, kill investments and limit expenditures to priority business needs only.
However, no matter how difficult it may be, the gambling business not only demonstrates its ability to quickly adapt and survive, but also supports the country, thus giving positive signals that we can eventually bring our professionals home an provide them with decent jobs.

Anton Kuchukhidze, Chairman of the Ukrainian Gambling Council, exclusively for the Ukrainian News
Anton Kuchukhidze