Legal Gambling in Ukraine Could Generate Up to $300 Million in Tax Revenue

Legal gambling could pour between UAH5-9 billion (approx. $200-$300 million) into Ukraine’s coffers in the form of taxes, the nation’s Finance Minister, Oksana Markarova, said earlier this week.

The minister’s comments were prompted by the recent introduction of a bill that seeks to legalize casino-style gambling at three-, four-, and five-star hotels around Ukraine. According to some local media outlets, the legislative piece would also legalize online gambling.

Minister Markarova said that the predicted tax revenue from regulated gambling was based on conservative estimates by experts.

The minister also pointed out that the proposed gambling bill has been submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, known to be Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, and that tax revenue from the potential legalization of gambling can be included in the nation’s 2020 draft budget.

Ukraine’s Gambling Legalization Effort

Gambling was legal in Ukraine up until 2009 when the country’s then-government criminalized the practice. Legislators have made several attempts to legalize various forms of gambling in recent years, but none of those succeeded.

Fresh off his victory in this year’s presidential election, former comedian Volodymyr Zelensky revealed plans to legalize gambling in the country in a bid to clamp down on a thriving black market.

In early September, Ukraine’s top official tasked his administration with crafting a bill that would legalize and regulate casino-style gambling and presenting the piece by October 1, 2019. The legislation was approved by the Cabinet of Ministers earlier this month.

What Does the Bill Call For?

The bill now needs to be approved by the Verkhovna Rada. President Zelensky said last month that he would expect the parliament to pass the legislative piece by December 1, 2019. Minister Markarova and Ukraine’s Prime Minister Oleksii Honcharuk were in charge of the team that had to draft the bill.

As mentioned above, the piece was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada after it was endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers.

The bill calls for the legalization of slot machines at three-, four-, and five-star hotels around the country as well as for the addition of full-scale casinos at five-star hotels. According to reports by local media outlets, slot halls will also be permitted under the bill as long as these are not located near schools, hospitals, churches, and residential apartments.

The government will reportedly cap the number of slot machines around the country at 40,000, with a maximum of 250 devices per venue. It is also believed that Ukrainian lawmakers could permit online gambling and sports betting at retail betting points.

Under the bill, casinos in the capital Kiev can only be located at hotels with at least 200 rooms. In the rest of the country, hotels will need to have no fewer than 150 rooms in order to be allowed to operate casinos.

The draft legislation also contains measures for penalizing illegal online gambling operations. Everyone conducting unregulated gambling will face up to five years in prison.

Despite the previously failed attempts, it now seems that the gambling legalization effort has enough legislative support to succeed this time around.

Source: Markarova: Ukraine can profit from taxation on legalized gambling, KyivPost.com

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