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New gambling bill: online casino licenses to become several times cheaper

In January 2020, in the first reading, the Parliament adopted a bill legalizing gambling. Casinos will be allowed to work legally after obtaining a license from the state. A couple of days ago, the amended bill was submitted to the Parliament for the second reading, and the license prices in it were significantly reduced. Some of the key business rules have also changed.

AIN.UA has found the document and picked out the main points. For example, licenses for online casinos have become several times cheaper.

Background

The Law “On Prohibition of Gambling Business” has been in force since 2009, and Article 203-2 of the Criminal Code establishes criminal liability for such activities. At the end of 2019, the Parliament failed to pass several bills on the legalization of gambling. After that, by order of the Cabinet of Ministers, authorities began closing down casinos and gambling halls. In January 2020, Verkhovna Rada reconsidered the legalization of gambling and adopted the bill in the first reading.

What was proposed in January 2020?

The version of the law supported by the deputies in January contains such provisions:

  • The allowed activities include casinos, online casinos, betting shops, slot machines, lotteries, and online poker.
  • To conduct such activities, a business must obtain a license.
  • Licenses are issued for five years; the prices are: 12,500 minimum wages per year (UAH 59 million per year) for online casinos, upfront payment is required; 120,000 minimum wages for a five-year license, i. e. UAH 566 million for five years, or UAH 113 million per year, for bookmakers.
  • Gambling software developers also need a license.
  • There is an online record of market operators kept in the country: it is a state-maintained system that all licensed companies, etc. must be connected to.

What does the June version propose?

As of June, the amended bill differs from the January version in some substantial details:

  • License prices have become several times lower. For example, an online casino license price equal to 6,500 minimum wages (against 12,500 minimum wages per year in the first reading).
  • Moreover, licenses are issued for five years, and the wording “per year” has been removed from the text. This means that, whereas previously online casinos were offered to pay 12,500 minimum wage per year, now it is 6,500 minimum wages, spread over five years (i. e. approximately UAH 30.7 million for 5 years, which is just over UAH 6 million per year).
  • The price for bookmakers has also been reduced: 30,000 minimum wages for five years (previously, 120,000 minimum wages). Meaning, that under the amended law, companies would have to pay UAH 28 million per year.
  • One more important point here: under the earlier version, casino software developers could be subject to the license-buying rule. In the latest version, the bill’s authors distinguish between gambling software supply services and the development of the same software. License is needed specifically for the software supply services. Now, if Ukrainian programmers develop programs for a company that is going to supply software for casinos, they need no license.
  • The online registration system for gambling market operators has been preserved.
  • As contrasted with the January bill, companies are required to have a website with the domain extension .ua, but there are no second-level domain restrictions, so extensions like .com.ua or .net.ua are acceptable. The January version demanded a website with the country-code top-level domain (available just for registered trademark holders). Now, a casino can have a website not only at, say, casino.ua but also at casino.com.ua or casino.net.ua.
  • Similarly to the January bill, separate licenses should be obtained for online casino activities and bookmaking.

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