It has now been more than a year since Russia infringed Ukraine’s sovereignty and invaded the country after claiming it would never do that for months. As war losses mount, Ukraine has decided to block a long list offshore gambling websites, including many Russian operators.
Unlicensed offshore websites are illegal anyways but Ukraine has taken protecting its gambling market a step further and has completely barred Ukrainians from accessing the websites in question. This was announced by Ukraine’s Security Service, which joined forces with the local regulator to crack down on illegal gambling.
The ban of Russian offshore operators demonstrates both Ukraine’s intention to protect its legal gambling market and the country’s unrelenting ambition to drive Russia away from its territory. By blocking unlicensed websites, Ukraine will channel more players toward the legal sector.
A more controversial decision, on the other hand, was the Ukrainian Gambling and Betting Association’s refusal to allow its members to postpone paying their taxes for 2022. As a result, operators have to pay what they owe by April 2023. Companies have been struggling to adapt and not being able to delay their financial obligations will hurt their businesses.
The Russian invasion has been profoundly criticized by the Western world. As a result, Russian tech companies even got banned from attending the CES 2023 event in Las Vegas in January.
Ukraine Wanted to Expand Its Industry Prior to the War
Ukraine legalized online gambling in 2020. Under the local rules, companies must first apply for an internet gambling and betting license from the Ukrainian Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries. As one might guess, all licensees are required to also comply with the local regulations.
However, the rules also state that no company that is owned by a Russian company or person can acquire a license. Furthermore, licensees should not own shares of any Russian company or have shareholders from a FATF-graylisted country. If a company fulfills all of the requirements, it has to pay $1.3 million for its license.
In 2020, Ukraine also legalized traditional land-based casinos. However, the country currently has but a single operational casino, which is the Billionaire’s Casino at the InterContinental Hotel in Kyiv.
Unfortunately, Ukraine’s gambling potential has largely been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war which erupted soon after. While there are still efforts to modernize and expand local gambling, it will take a while before the industry can recuperate from all the damages.