Anton Kuchukhidze: Why does William Hill operate in Latvia and not Ukraine?

The globally recognized gambling brand William Hill has started its online gambling operations in Latvia. It is great news for the Latvian market. However, why don’t we have similar news in Ukraine? The answer is quite obvious, but not only because of the war. There is another crucial factor: we have not yet adopted the law on gambling taxation 2713-d.

Although the Latvian gambling market has been demonstrating growth over the past few years, it is still several times, if not many times, smaller than the Ukrainian one. However, this does not stop such powerful global brands as William Hill from starting their business there. On the other hand, this makes sense since, unlike Ukraine, Latvia has transparent legislation regulating taxation and investment in gambling.

Clear rules of the game give confidence to investors in the security of investments and stability in creating a business model for a particular jurisdiction. It is much easier for any business to operate while clearly understanding how much taxes it should pay.

Today, both the war and the lack of specialized legislation on gambling taxation significantly hamper the development of the legal gambling market in Ukraine. The simple idea that the adopted tax legislation in gambling means increased tax revenues for the budget and investments in the Ukrainian economy should be learned by all deputies and “activists” opposing the adoption of 2713-d.

I would also like to remind you that license fees in Ukraine are among the highest in the world, and a betting license is the most expensive one, namely UAH 117 million per year. That is why the delay in entering the Ukrainian market of, for instance, William Hill means annual budget shortfalls of more than UAH 117 million, all because the opponents of the reform and influential illegal gambling curators oppose legalization in every possible way.

Another argument supporting the idea that public endorsement of the gambling business may be a correct step is the systematic support of the country by legal gambling. Legal gambling operators are doing everything possible for our country’s victory, from money transfers to the NBU accounts to charitable and humanitarian projects to support the army and people. What matters is the systemic nature of such support. There should be mutual respect to get a positive result in dialogue: the State shall contribute to the business, and the latter shall help the State. Gambling demonstrates it through concrete actions, not words.

Here are a few examples of systematic gambling support for our State in the last few months.

1. Parimatch Ukraine donated funds to buy “micro-antiaircraft protection” SKY CTRL helping to jam and shoot down enemy drones. The company also implements several charitable projects to raise funds for the army and people.

2. Since the first days of the war, PIN-UP Ukraine has been helping those who suffered from the aggressor’s actions. For instance, the company spends its funds to buy and deliver food products to areas with active hostilities (Donetsk, Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Chernihiv regions). The PIN-UP Ukraine team actively helps hospitals and clinics, assisting the Okhmatdyt National specialized children’s hospital, Feofaniya Clinical Hospital, Kharkiv Perinatal Centre, and hospitals in Mykolaiv. The PIN-UP Ukraine team also organized two charity quizzes among its employees and donated all received funds to charity. The recruitment is in progress, with the company opening vacancies and hiring people since the economy must work and the state budget should get revenue.

3. GG Poker provides a relevant system of donations at all events and tournaments to support Ukraine. Through the volunteer movement, the company’s employees also help the State with a wide range of issues.

4. Cosmolot received the thanks of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine for helping the front. For instance, the company donated five professional copters, two thermal imagers, and 16 walkie-talkies to the army. The company also raised funds for one of its employees’ volunteer projects producing plate carriers and purchasing bulletproof vests and tactical equipment for the military. The company also launched an interactive portal to collect donations for equipment and vehicles for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

5. Vbet launched We CareFund, a humanitarian fundraising initiative. Part of the funds from each spin and bet in live casinos or other activities in games of chance with the We Care Fund logo will be transferred in favour of the initiative. Once a month, Ukrainian humanitarian organizations will receive the collected funds.

6. As part of the poker tournaments held in May, PokerMatch donated the collected funds to several well-known Ukrainian volunteer funds.

7. Favbet Foundation, a charitable foundation established in 2020 by FAVBET, actively supports the civilian population and the military. Currently, 95% of projects are focused on helping the country and the army. For instance, the fund donated more than 100 tons of humanitarian cargo. Favbet Foundation systematically transfers weapons and special vehicles to our defenders in the AFU: more than 100 sets of ammunition for the military, two armoured vehicles, and the most advanced sniper rifle.

The company participated in purchasing and transferring of three ambulances in the Mykolaiv region.

The company’s employees have also developed a website to search for missing and evacuated people. As of today, it has collected data from more than 50,000 Ukrainians reported missing by their relatives.

It is clear that legal gambling companies do not sit on the sidelines, do not claim to be out of politics, but bring victory closer and protect the State. Legal gambling has demonstrated its patriotic civic position, thus deserving an equal dialogue with state authorities.

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