Ukraine Regulator Readies New Powers To Sanction Russian Firms

October 5, 2022
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In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Commission for Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) is intensifying efforts to sanction Russia-backed bookmakers, lottery operators and other gambling entities.

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In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Commission for Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) is intensifying efforts to sanction Russia-backed bookmakers, lottery operators and other gambling entities.

Ukraine’s licensed gambling industry operates under the provisions of the country’s gambling law, which was signed into force by President Volodymyr Zelensky in August 2020. More than two years later, the regulator is now working on amending the legislation, according to Olena Vodolashko, the agency’s acting head.

“KRAIL is currently working on a draft legislative act to improve the regulation of activities within the gambling market. It envisages many conceptual changes in various areas: licensing, equipment certification, minimising manifestations of gaming addiction, state supervision of the market, etc.,” the official said in an interview with local news agency Ukrinform, reprinted on the regulator's website.

Vodolashko also stated that “isolating Russia within the gambling sphere” is a top priority for the agency, as demonstrated by its recent decision to shut down the Ukrainian operations of Russian bookmaker 1xBet.

“KRAIL has initiated the application of sanctions to Russian entities within the sphere of bookmaking and lotteries. We have identified a number of Russian legal entities which provide gambling, bookmaking and lottery services through land-based shops and on the internet which are accessible from the territory of Ukraine,” she said.

“The commission developed and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers a draft ordinance 'On the introduction of proposals for the application of personal special economic and other restrictive measures (sanctions)', which was adopted on September 7 at a government meeting,” according to Vodolashko.

To carry out the regulation’s provisions, KRAIL has prepared a list of 38 Russia-linked entities which have provided their services to Ukraine’s inhabitants. The list comprises 26 bookmakers and lottery operators, three Russian state-owned lottery operators, eight casinos and slot halls and one financial services company, she said.

The regulator had initially declined to cancel 1xBet’s licence, claiming it could not find enough evidence to connect the company to Russia, but reversed its decision a week later.

Vodolashko said the new regulations will enable the government to use a wide range of measures to ward off Russia-backed gambling industry players from the Ukrainian market.

These will include: “Blocking access to the websites of gambling organisers of the aggressor country; preventing further transfer of personal data of Ukrainians participating in gambling on Russian sites; stopping the receipt of funds from Ukraine to the budget of the aggressor state; shutting down illegal operators and excluding our country from the chain of actions aimed at laundering proceeds obtained through criminal means through gambling,” the official said.

KRAIL continues to use its international partnerships to lead a campaign against Russia’s gambling industry, claiming the Kremlin uses its revenues to fund its war against Ukraine. As part of this campaign, the agency has collaborated with the Gaming Regulators European Forum (GREF), according to the official.

Earlier this year, a group of national lottery operators from Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland also successfully lobbied the World Lottery Association (WLA) to suspend its Russian and Belarusian members.

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