The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), together with the nation’s Commission for Licensing of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL) has shut down more than 30 illegal gambling establishments and two casinos since the beginning of March.
Gambling establishments were shut down in the Kiev, Donetsk, Zhytomyr and Odessa regions of the country, among several others, and some of the establishments were operated by groups the SBU labels as terrorist organisations.
During the investigations, SBU officers seized over 600 units of computer equipment, 14 poker tables, 5 roulette wheels, playing chips, cards, card game accessories, the mobile phones of establishment staff, client database records, video recorders and cash. Information on the possible involvement of law enforcement officers in the activities is currently under investigation.
The SBU said it has been established that part of the funds obtained by the operations had been used to finance self-proclaimed states within Ukraine, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR).
Ukraine regards both the DPR and the LPR as terrorist organizations, although most international bodies and other nations, including the EU, US, and Russia, do not apply this label to the groups. Gambling was legalised in Ukraine in 2020, after the country’s president Volodymyr Zelensky signed the Gambling Act into law in August.
Under the bill, online gambling, bookmaking, slot halls and land-based casinos would all be legal, but casinos may only be located in hotels. The first licence granted by KRAIL was awarded in February, to Cosmolot operator Spaceiks, allowing it to operate an online casino in the country. Ukraine’s first sports betting licence was subsequently awarded to Parimatch in March.