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Legalization of gambling gave impetus to the real fight against illegals

Viktoriya Zakrevskaya
International communications consultant, technologist

С начала марта 2021 года СБУ и Генпрокуратура Украины сообщают о разоблачении сотен нелегальных заведений, которые оказывали услуги азартных игр как «на земле», так и в сети интернет. Так, благодаря сотрудничеству Комиссии по регулированию азартных игр и лотерей (КРАИЛ) и правоохранителей с начала года была прекращена деятельность более 60 наземных игральных залов и казино в Киеве, Киевской области, Донецкой, Житомирской, Ивано-Франковской, Кировоградской, Одесской, Харьковской, Хмельницкой, Черкасской и Черниговской областях; а также заблокировано более 250 сайтов онлайн-казино и приема ставок. Процесс защиты рынка азартных игр идет и заслуживает более глубокого понимания, нежели просто факт закрытия нелегалов.

First of all, counteraction to the illegal segment is part of the government's policy to the economy unshadowing. The very idea of unshadowing an entire sector of the economy that generates billions in turnover and refuses to protect the rights of players is not only absolutely logical, but also necessary in the face of budget deficits, a deviation from untaxed income, and the search for market instruments to stimulate the economy.

Moreover, the legalization of the gambling market turned out to be a much more effective way to control unscrupulous operators than a total ban that failed to achieve its goals. The author of the law on the prohibition of gambling spoke out about this a few months after its imposition.

The prohibitive logic works only in states with very strong institutions and law enforcement systems, to say the least: in autocratic societies relying on a power bloc in governing the country—such an example is Belarus, but even there the state decided to make money on the gambling business under close fiscal and law enforcement control while Ukraine imitated a complete ban. Since 2014, having made the European choice, Ukraine has embarked on the path of rationalizing the economy, protecting the rights of citizens, and due to this in the logic President Zelenskyy's initiative to legalize the gambling market appeared and a real fight against corruption and the illegal sector in this area began.

Why is it important?

Today the special law on gambling states that the Regulator creates a level playing field for everyone. If some pay hundreds of millions of UAH to the country's budget, while others operate for free through illegal schemes, then the principle of equality is violated—and the state has begun to seriously make efforts to protect the market. That is why we are witnessing an intensification of cooperation between law enforcement agencies and KRAIL to identify those who violate the rules and bring them to justice.

In addition, the very fact of the presence of licensed operators greatly simplifies the task of the state in combating illegal immigrants, because licensees themselves identify unfair competitors and report violations—this is how legal business becomes a partner of the state in protecting the market.

In addition to economic considerations, legalization also has a political goal—it is the social protection of citizens. If a player goes to a black marketeer, then neither their rights as a consumer, nor their life, nor their health, nor their property, nor their credit cards are absolutely protected from fraud by criminal structures. Therefore, the state is interested in protecting citizens and the fight against the illegal sector helps to remove initiatives from Ukrainians' access to take away their money.

In addition, the experience of opening gambling markets in other jurisdictions shows that during the first 2-3 years after legalization, the number of operators decreases every year, there is a natural process of players consolidation in the market—this suggests that the legalization of this sector contributes not only to cleansing the market from the illegals, but also sets high standards for doing this business, in which only companies with a high level of organization, transparency and access to legal capital can withstand competition. This, in turn, gives the players the most secure product, protects their rights, and helps to reduce the level of fraud in related industries, primarily in the field of finance and payments.

The effective work of the state against the illegals and the shadow economy also, of course, creates a positive image for the country's investment climate.

Thus, the legalization of gambling and the establishment of fair modern rules of the game is the best tool to control this sphere of activity, contrary to the convictions of the conservative opposition, who have already tried to ban the sphere that not only continued to exist, but also increased momentum and created a corruption monster in Ukraine. Thus, competent regulation and supervision of the gambling industry helps to protect citizens from fraud, businesses from corruption and the state from unwanted geopolitical influences.

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