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Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pledged to implement stricter controls on gambling in the country, following reports of gambling addiction among military servicemen.

An online petition has drawn attention to the issue of problem gambling among military personal within Ukraine’s armed forces.

Submitted by Pavlo Petrychenk from Ukraine’s 56th Brigade, last week the petition crossed the 25,000-signature threshold for governmental consideration.

Petrychenk argued psychologically vulnerable servicemen have relied on the activity, with some opting to pawn equipment such as drones and thermal imaging devices to fund their spend.

Security concerns were also cited. Petrychenk argued many Russian online casinos have targeted Ukrainian consumers to mine data.

He argued servicemen’s debts could also be used as leverage by Russian security agencies for espionage purposes.

“Whitewashing” online gambling sites with Ukraine armed forces symbols and small charitable donations was also highlighted as a concern.  

Petrychenk called for a range of measures, including a ban on military servicemen accessing online casinos during martial law.

President Zelenskyy committed to addressing the issue last weekend.

“I have tasked the chief of the Security Service of Ukraine, the State Special Communications Service, the Ministry of Digital Transformation, the Secretary of National Security and the Defence Council to compile all analytics on this matter for me, with a proposal for a solution by next week,” he said in a televised address.

Gambling regulator could be dissolved under new bill

People’s deputy Yaroslav Zheleznyak has so far spearheaded efforts in Ukraine’s parliament, the Rada, to reform the country’s gambling laws.

Today (4 April), a committee in the legislature approved a new bill, 9256d, which would introduce sweeping changes to the activity.

This includes the dissolution of the current gambling regulator, KRAIL, with the regulatory responsibilities to be instead nested within the Ministry for Digital.

New restrictions are also to be applied to advertising. If passed, ads would not be able to mention Ukraine’s war against the Russian Federation. 

However, Zheleznyak argued the measures must be accompanied by new tools to combat financial flows from unlicensed gambling.

“I support restrictions,” he said. “But all this will work in practice only simultaneously with an effective fight against illegal gambling.”

“Otherwise, restrictions may push people into the shadows, which is not the purpose of the law.”

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