Gambling used to be entirely legal until 2009 – when a tragic event shocked the entire country. In May of the same year, a fire broke out at a casino of the Metro Jack Pot chain in the city of Dnipro (formerly known as Dnipropetrovsk). Due to a lack of safety regulations and, allegedly, corrupt fire inspectors, nine people fell victim to the flames and eleven people were hospitalized with severe injuries. This caused an uproar amongst the local populations and sparked a discussion within the entire country. Even though the issue was not necessarily gambling-related (but rather the result of corruption and negligence), the government decided to issue a complete ban on all gambling facilities in the country. Online gambling was also banned.
Later on, two similar incidents occurred in none gambling-related facilities, proving that the gambling ban didn’t solve the problem. The public saw the gambling ban as a scapegoat since the government failed to address the issues properly. Due to a lack of options, however, Ukrainian gamblers resorted to foreign-based online casinos, as well as local online casinos operating illegally within the country. The government also realized that the gambling ban was not the solution to its problems. On top of that, the state missed out on a considerable amount of tax revenues. Something had to change…
As a result of everything laid out above, a new regulation was passed in 2020. This legalized gambling once again but restricted local casinos in a way that they could only operate from appropriate, official facilities. At the same time, online gambling was opened up again. So, Ukrainians have only been able to legally play at foreign-based online casinos for a short time.
In another twist, the situation should not last for long because the government has now blocked all foreign casinos from early 2021 onward. However, some good news followed shortly after… The Ukrainian Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) approved the first online gambling license in February 2021. The license went to casino operator Spacex for its Kosmolot brand for a licensing fee of roughly €920,000 over a five-year period.
Unfortunately, there is not a lot of official information available about the new casino regulations yet. The government’s change of heart came quite suddenly and was not expected by most Ukrainians and industry experts. It’s not hard to guess why this is likely an effort by the government to gain back control over the online gambling activities in the country. Black market gambling rapidly rose in popularity after the gambling ban. The losses in tax revenue were surely a thorn in the flesh for many officials on top of that.
Nevertheless, there are indications that the regulatory body is doing its due diligence in a more serious manner this time around. The first license was supposed to go out much earlier initially but was delayed as the Ukrainian Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) request additional information on the firm’s ownership structure.
The security measures at online casinos licensed by KRAIL are highly speculative at this point. It is true that the first license has been issued to Kosmolot already, but the casino is not up and running yet. We will update this article with further information about the topic as it becomes available.