Poker Registered as Sport, as Ukraine Removes it from Under Gambling Banner
Poker enthusiasts across Ukraine can begin celebrating now as the Ukrainian Government has formally removed poker from its gambling and games umbrella and placed it in the sports category.
This comes as a surprising move considering the staunch stance of the Ukrainian Government about poker. Before 2010, poker belonged to the country’s registered sports category. However, in 2010, it was removed from the sports category and placed under the gambling umbrella, given how it contained features which directly went against the rules and regulations stipulated in the Ukrainian anti-gambling laws. It was placed under the “other forms of gambling” tag, distinct from games like blackjack, roulette, and slots.
In 2009, Ukraine had banned every form of gambling with the exception of lotteries under the On Prohibition of Gambling Business in Ukraine Act (aka Gambling Ban Law) and faced mounting pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for not having a comprehensive gambling regime for the country. This move of legalizing poker by placing it under the sports category comes as a breath of fresh air for game lovers and international agencies.
The fight for poker began in 2013 when Ukrainian poker clubs joined hands and approached the Supreme Court for help. After intense deliberations, the Court ruled in favor of the poker clubs, but only for poker tournaments organized in the country. The passing of the new rule allowed the clubs to remain in operation for the duration of a few months in the year, prior to any poker tournaments.
However, the country’s problems with Russia and their political concerns in Crimea put a wrench in the operation of the new poker law, as lawmakers refocused their attention on other matters and put a stop to any discussions related to furthering the cause of gambling in the country.
The lack of legal support created a grey area for poker and many large gambling conglomerates like iPoker, who were accused of operating games illegally and had to choose between leaving the country or facing legal prosecution.
The move to remove poker from under the banner of the anti-gambling laws is a huge victory for gaming companies, international agencies, and players everywhere. With the legalization of poker as a sport in Ukraine, newer regulations are expected to make the provision of poker services more efficient and streamlined. This also signifies the potential of mainstreaming other gambling forms, which can help bring in great economic benefits to the country.
Today, the International Federation of Match Poker boasts of having renowned players like Eugene Katchalov and Yevgeniy Timoshenko under their Ukraine division.