Ukraine President Zelensky Signs Bill to Legalize Gambling

  • Bill 2285-D was approved by the Ukraine parliament in its second reading after a 248-95 vote
  • Land-based casinos, sportsbooks, slot halls, and online gambling will all become legal
  • A tax policy still needs to be agreed upon before the legislation goes into effect
  • Betting and tech company Parimatch has already committed to pursuing an operating license
Ukrainian flag in front of Monument of Independence
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed a bill that legalizes multiple forms of gambling in the country. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Update: The Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries in Ukraine (KRAIL) has green-lighted the first license under the country’s 2020 Gambling Act. Gaming company Spacex received approval for its online casino operation on February 2.

A new era

Ukraine is set to have legal gambling once more after President Volodymyr Zelensky signed the country’s new Gambling Act on August 11. Bill 2285-D was sent to the president’s desk after the parliament voted 248-95 in favor of passage following a second reading.

With the legislation, land-based casinos, sportsbooks, slot halls, and online gambling will all be legal. Casinos, though, will only be permitted in hotels.

lawmakers must approve a gambling taxation policy

Before the Act takes effect, lawmakers must approve a gambling taxation policy. There are a number of tax bills already under consideration; parliament might also create its own tax bill.

Licensing structure

As per the version of the bill that was published by the Committee on Finance, Tax and Customs Policy, online gambling licenses will be valid for five years and will cost UAH30.7m ($1.1m). The license fees for sportsbooks will be UAH70.8m ($2.6m) and the casino license fee is set to be UAH121.6m ($4.4m) for Kyiv hotels and UAH70.8m ($2.6m) for casinos elsewhere. 

The license fees will be triple these amounts until the Online Monitoring System is implemented, estimated to happen within 30 months of the gambling sector’s launch. 

Originally, no third-party or online marketing was allowable for Ukraine casinos, but this restriction was removed. Only legal entities that have Ukraine registration can receive an operating license and no Russian citizen or resident can be an “Ultimate Beneficial Owner” or shareholder of a licensee. 

Bill origins

The bill was first introduced in October 2019 by Oleg Marusyak. President Zelensky has been in favor of legalizing gambling for some time, announcing at the start of his presidency that he planned to open up the gambling scene in the country. 

internet service providers shut down dozens of illegal online gambling sites

Following the initial rejection of the bill, he committed to cracking down on illegal gambling. As a result, internet service providers shut down dozens of illegal online gambling sites in the country. All forms of gambling have been illegal in Ukraine since 2009, except for state-run lotteries.

Local operator getting ready

Parimatch, a global betting and technology company founded in Ukraine, has already stated its intention to pursue a license once the application process begins. It has an Eastern-European focus and some of its brand ambassadors include Mike Tyson and Conor McGregor. 

Speaking about President Zelensky signing the bill, Parimatch chief executive Sergey Portnov said: “We are fully committed to conquering our home market by delivering a product that can entertain the people of Ukraine.”

He did underline that a fair tax system is needed to ensure that there is long-term viability for Ukraine’s gambling industry.