Anton Kuchukhidze, Chairman of KRAIL – Ukraine’s Gambling and Lotteries Council – has provided an update on Ukrainian gambling developments under the active Russian invasion.
Speaking to CIS markets news sources SBCCIS, Kuchukhidze disclosed that KRAIL had re-established its regulatory duties five months following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
KRAIL governs a marketplace that has been severely disrupted by the conflict across all Ukrainian provinces, especially in the occupied eastern cities such as Kherson and Mykolaiv.
However, Kuchukhidze and KRAIL executives remain steadfast in their commitment to restore an active gambling market, reopened alongside other domestic industries, as business requires.
“In the west of Ukraine, of course, the situation is better. Both casinos and slot machine halls function there, but, obviously, the tourist flow of people has fallen, and according to the law, casinos and slot machines can only be located in hotels,” Kuchukhidze told SBCCIS.
“We recognise that because of the war, not many tourists are ready to visit us. Therefore, the number of visitors to gambling halls also decreased significantly.”
Mirroring all government departments, KRAIL resources have been affected by the war, impacting its regulatory capacity of land-based and online offerings.
Yet, Kuchukhidze remains upbeat on returning to regulatory duties “as KRAIL has retained its role as a bridge between business and the state.”
“We are still the largest association in terms of the number of participants that have maintained an 80% market shareholding,” he added.
Elsewhere, KRAIL has not escaped the political consequences of the conflict. Last August, KRAIL disbanded the Advisory and Expert Council which served as a policy and commercial advisor since its regulatory foundation and had assisted KRAIL’s duties in finalising the remaining regulatory measures of Ukraine’s Gambling Law.
KRAIL had confirmed that the council had been disbanded, as Ukraine media reported on the ‘close ties’ of Council Leader Boris Baum and bookmaker 1XBet (accusations that have been dismissed by 1XBet).
Speaking on the sensitive matter, Kuchukhidze reflected: “Since August last year, the Council has not met, and had not generated any decisions. Therefore, I understand the decision was that the council was no longer required.
“There is nothing unusual in this. Considering that this is a norm of the law, I am sure that there will be a new council formed, which will include people who will be able to fulfill the provisions on the functioning of this body.”
Despite the conflict’s continued interruptions, Kuchukhidze stated that KRAIL’s regulatory focus would remain on carrying out market reforms that had been agreed upon in 2021.
Though limited by war constraints, KRAIL is confident of achieving its regulatory duties, supported by Ukraine’s world-class IT sector, that will help the nation’s post-war economic recovery.
“I want to pay tribute to the Commission, which did not stop working for a single day, and was always in touch with members,” Kuchukhidze noted.
“I believe that there is no more critical moment than a war to test true desires of the marketplace. This is a critical moment, both sides proved that reform must take place.”