The country of Ukraine is once again finding itself in the news and not for some of the other things that have been floating around over the past couple of years. In a massive raid ordered by the President of the country, Ukrainian law enforcement has cracked down on “illegal” gambling in the country, resulting in hundreds of gaming establishments being shut down and gaming paraphernalia being seized.
President Zelensky Orders Raids, 10 Year Ban
In a stunning move, President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered all gaming halls closed, effective immediately, inside the borders of the country. Zelensky felt that he had to act because discussions on new laws regarding the industry in the Ukrainian Parliament had failed to bear any fruit. Zelensky’s order was announced, strangely enough, over Twitter.
For those of you who don’t speak Ukrainian (and I’m not even going to pretend that I do!), Zelensky Tweeted to his people, “So, you don’t want to play by transparent rules? You don’t want to work in a civilized way and pay to the budget? Well, let’s do it another away. As of today, we immediately close down all the gaming halls.” It was estimated that the government was looking to earn more tax revenues under the new laws being considered, which could have totaled as much as $375,000 per year.
The new law would not only have given new revenues to the government, they also would have put a serious limit on the number of establishments in the country. Only large hotels would be allowed to open casinos and those casino licenses would be limited to only 20. Gaming machines in the country would be limited to only 40,000 and those licenses would be limited to 160. Bookmakers, which can usually be found on every corner, would be limited to only 800 outlets.
Wide Ranging Effect Across the Country
Once the order had been issued by Zelensky, Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk put Ukrainian law enforcement into action. Police were sent out to the different gaming establishments in the country to enforce the law and tax officials with the Ukrainian government started a review of the lottery licenses in the country to enforce the Zelensky order.
The actions immediately had a significant impact on the country’s gaming infrastructure. In one swing, 152 gambling outlets deemed “illegal” by the government were shut down instantly, with more than $2 million in gaming equipment seized. Some of this material included electronic roulette tables, 107 poker tables, 27 slot machines and nearly 4000 pieces of computer equipment and peripherals. The seized equipment was estimated to be worth over 51 million hryvnia (slightly more than $2.2 million U. S. dollars).
According to Ukrainian journalist Katya Gorchinskaya, reporting for Forbes.com, the visual effect of the raids was perhaps more shocking than the actual raids themselves. Once bustling gaming outlets were locked up around Kyiv, the capital of the country, while all gaming advertising had been stripped from public view. Even a lottery outlet, an industry which apparently will not be affected by the crackdown, was closed while the government figures out who is a legal operator and who is operating illegally.
This is the latest nationalistic crackdown on gaming in Europe, which used to treat gaming quite differently. Many nations, including France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Germany (just to name a few) have “ring fenced” (nationalized gaming operations to keep revenues in the country and to keep governmental control of the industry) their citizens and shut down any “illegal” operators. Australia went to extreme lengths, banning online gaming in the country with severe penalties for offenders.
It will be interesting to see what the eventual outcome will be in Ukraine. Known for honing the skills of many top poker pros, including Oleksii Kovalchuk and Yevgeniy Timoshenko, the effects of a long-term ban on gaming, such as the ten-year ban being imposed by Zelensky, could have a devastating impact.