The wait is finally over, at least for Parimatch! After 11 years of waiting for its Ukraine debut, Parimatch eventually received the first-ever Ukrainian gambling license. This is in line with the recent efforts by the country to legalize its online gambling business. But what does this move mean for the Ukrainian gambling market from now on?
On August 13, 2021, the country’s law to legalize gambling came into force. This is after 11 years of the country’s betting industry staying in a grey area. As the state finally moves closer to the EU gambling standards, Parimatch became the first legal operator in this jurisdiction. This license allows the online casino and sportsbook operator to offer its gambling services to the Ukrainian punters while generating some much-needed tax revenue for the government.
This move makes Ukraine the fifth country where Parimatch legally operates. The company currently has its wings spread across Cyprus, Belarus, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. Parimatch punters access services like sports betting, online casino, and online poker services.
Here is what Parimatch’s Chief Executive had to say after passing all the technical checks and paying the necessary license fee: “Parimatch was born in Ukraine, and we’re happy to finally officially return and help develop the industry in our home country.” He added: “Legalization of the gambling business will help Ukraine generate funds for the budget and distribute them where they are always needed.”
But it’s not all a rosy affair, considering gambling in Ukraine is still in its initial stages. According to Maksym Liashko, Parimatch Holding’s Managing Partner, there is still plenty of work to do before Ukraine becomes a hotbed for foreign gambling investors. He claimed that the cost of getting a Ukrainian gambling license along with taxation is so high that future investors might shun the market altogether.
Interestingly, gambling in Ukraine was an illegal activity in the period between 2009 and 2020. After a tragic fire in a gambling hall that killed nine people in May 2009, the country’s legislature decided to outlaw gambling on May 15, 2009. The then Ukraine President, Viktor Yushchenko, assented to the new regulation on June 23, 2009. The law also affected online casinos, although lotteries were spared.
But on July 14, 2020, the Parliament made a U-turn by legalizing gambling, albeit with stricter rules. This is in line with the promises made by the current Ukraine President, Volodymyr Zelensky. The bill, 2285-D, was signed by the president after being unanimously passed 248-95 during the Parliament’s second reading.
Under the new law, online casinos, sportsbooks, slot halls, and in-person casinos would be legal. However, land-based casinos will only operate in hotels. Also, the bill introduced steep license fees. Any Ukraine online casino will part with UAH30.7 million or $1.1 million to get a Ukrainian gambling license. The license is renewable every five years. Bookmakers will pay even more with the fee set at UAH70.8 million. Elsewhere, land-based casinos will pay UAH121.6 million to renew their license.
Just as expected, the bill restricts any Russian resident or citizen from acting as an Ultimate Beneficial Owner (UBO) or shareholder in the country’s gambling business. What’s worse, only legal companies registered in the country can access the license.
Although the new law looks conservative, offshore operators should expect the Ukrainian government to loosen up slightly in the coming years. After all, it’s a considerable step legalizing the industry after placing a blanket ban only recently. It will certainly be a win-win scenario for all parties when the market gates are fully open.