Poker Reintroduced as Ukrainian National Sport
Poker has been re-introduced into the list of national sports, which exempts it from the provisions of the anti-gambling law. The Ministry of Youth and Sport of Ukraine’s newly published Register of Recognized Sports now includes Poker in Document 3780. The reinstating of Poker comes after eight years of hiatus from the register. The Justice Minister’s order in 2010 made Poker stand at par with other gambling games like slots, blackjack, and roulette.
Local clubs were allowed to hold tournaments, but cash games remained illegal in the country. Online Poker game operators had to relocate their services to foreign countries to avoid prosecution under the law. iPoker, the largest Poker network in Ukraine, exited from the market fully by 2016 to avoid working in unregulated and undefined markets.
The recent reclassification by the government will bring a new set of regulation in the country. As of now, the market remains unregulated as definition “poker sport” simply removes Poker from the world of gambling, which remains illegal, subject to a 2009 law. Ukraine is one of the most active Poker divisions in Eastern Europe. The country’s leading money winners, Eugene Katchalov and Yevgeniy Timoshenko, play in the Ukrainian division International Federation of Matchpoker.
It will be too early to say that the Ukrainian authorities have greenlighted the game. It could only remain a legal sport in the country. Ukrainian Prime Minister, Volodymyr Groisman announced a new regulatory regime for the gambling industry a couple of months ago. He said that the government is fighting smuggling and will target lotteries, where the shadow money streams are prevalent. He said that this money has to go to the state budget. He claimed that he is in favor of offshorization, adding that lottery business is not a business, but just a shadow scheme.
Local media reported that the lottery winnings of members of parliament and other officials amount to 7 million 874 thousand hryvnias. Of these, Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Pavel Kishkar, earned 1.2 million hryvnias while Irina Kalandirets, the head of the regional educational department won 1 million hryvnias. Alexander Moroz, the spouse of the head of the department of National Commission, is the third largest lottery winner with 777 thousand hryvnias in winnings.
The National Police of Ukraine claims that 7000 illegally operating underground casinos in the country since the 2009 ban. Up to 1500 new casinos are opened every year.