17 January 2020

In the sixth year of the armed conflict, when tens of millions of Ukrainians are waiting for decisions from the parliament for termination of the war and getting out of poverty, the Verkhovna Rada is busy with overtly lobbist draft laws, which is unacceptable for a civilized state.

On Thursday, again without prior discussion, the parliament supported in the first reading draft law No. 2285-d "On state regulation of activities in the organization and conduct of gambling."

What do we, as a country, show to the world with such a decision? That the income of casino owners is more important for us than overcoming the humanitarian crisis and restoring our state sovereignty.

In a situation where 80% of citizens consider the war and poverty to be their main troubles and expect the authorities to focus on solving these particular problems, and where only 11% of Ukrainians support the legalization of gambling, the authorities must give an answer to society why their priorities are so radically far from public demands.

In addition, once again I would like to reiterate the point about the destructive social consequences of this step. Together with additional “billions of revenues to the state budget” coming from casinos, Ukraine should expect rising crime rates and growing gambling addiction among the population.

Let me remind you that in 2018 the World Health Organization included gaming addiction into the International Classification of Diseases as a mental disorder. And the average crime rate in countries with a legalized gaming business is higher than in those where it is prohibited. Do the initiators of the draft law understand this?

Strong states take care of strengthening families and stimulating birth rate as investments in the main resource of their economy – labour capital. And we have taken a step towards the destruction and ruin of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian families, to whom gambling will bring tears of grief and disappointment. Indeed, in a country where the majority of the population is below the poverty line, significantly more citizens fall into the risk zone for gambling addiction than in developed countries. The consequences for us as a country will be disastrous!

Public dialogue on the legalization of gambling can only begin once the conflict in the Donbas has ended, the crime rate has significantly decreased, and signs of country's emergence from the economic crisis have appeared. Therefore, the draft law on the legalization of gambling should be withdrawn from consideration by the parliament.

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