Ukraine is just one of many nations in which online betting is outlawed on paper but widespread in practice. A gaming law passed in 2009 outlawed all forms of gambling across the country but it contained no enforcement mechanisms for individual players. The end result is that if you live in Ukraine, you can gamble online at betting sites hosted in other countries.
These are the sites I recommend above all others for three key reasons: they are all run by reputable operators, they all accept Ukrainians and they all offer a wide range of gaming options. Each of these sites offers online sports betting, casino games and real money poker. Some also offer additional games such as bingo and even financial betting.
None of these sites is located in Ukrain due to unfavorable gaming laws but they are all legitimate organizations in their home countries. They are licensed, regulated and backed by longstanding reputations for fair games and fast withdrawals.
Note and Update: The iPoker Network withdrew from the Ukrainian market in August of 2016. This means that you will not be able to play poker at iPoker Network sites. You may still bet on sports and play casino games at those sites, but there will be no option for poker.
The reasoning for iPoker’s decision to leave Ukraine remains unclear, but there is speculation that they left the country in anticipation of Ukraine eventually passing legislation first proposed in 2015. By leaving, the theory goes, the iPoker Network may be situating itself to be eligible for a license in a regulated market.
Ukrainian Gambling Laws
Prior to 2009, Ukraine was home to a vibrant gambling industry that employed upwards of 200,000 people between brick-and-mortar casinos, ancillary jobs and other gaming-related services. A fire in a gambling hall that resulted in the deaths of nine people is often blamed for the passage of the gambling ban in 2009, but the industry was already viewed unfavorably leading up to that tragic event.
It was so bad, in fact, that the author of the law said that “gambling has become an epidemic that can be compared with AIDS and tuberculosis. It is destroying the Ukrainian nation on a moral level.” It seems the fire was just the final straw among lawmakers who had little love for any form of betting.
A loophole in the prohibition allowed operators to continue running gaming sites as long as their servers were not located on Ukrainian soil. A further amendment in 2011 closed this loophole and essentially dealt the final blow to the industry.
The law, “On Prohibition of Gambling Business in Ukraine,” was devastating for operators and those involved in the business. However, it included nothing by way of actual enforcement. It should come as no surprise that lots of Ukrainians gamble online to this day. Gaming laws can and do change, however, so it would be wise to check with a local lawyer before you consider placing any real money bets online.
Speaking of which, positive changes could be in the works. Ukraine is considering revising its prohibition. A recent conference held in Ukraine brought gaming insiders and Ukrainian authorities together to discuss the possibility of legalizing the industry and bringing it out from the black market. One of the many arguments made in favor of overturning the ban is the potential tax revenue that a vibrant gambling industry could bring to the country.
It is promising to see initiatives such as this since the Ukrainian revolution of 2014 and ousting of then-President Viktor Yanukovych. Beyond the general upheaval following the revolution, industry insiders were left wondering what would happen to the country’s gaming laws. Now that things have calmed a bit, it looks like we could be transitioning to a more permissive attitude towards gambling.
In any case, the current law has done little to curb gambling in the real world or online. Underground gambling dens abound, except now the activity is completely unregulated. Gamblers have no protections or legal recourse if they are cheated. The same goes for online betting in Ukraine, although the situation in that regard is more positive since players can visit dozens of betting sites hosted in jurisdictions that heavily regulate online betting.
For example, betting sites based out of the United Kingdom are regulated by the UK Gambling Commission but still accept customers from Ukraine. Patronizing foreign gambling sites is perfectly safe if they are properly licensed by a respectable authority, but Ukraine receives exactly zero tax revenue. If the country decides to pursue legalization, it stands to benefit from a substantial new source of taxes.
Laws proposed in 2015 may eventually offer clarification on the gambling front. In December of 2015, the Ministry of Finance proposed new gambling laws that seek to create a regulatory body that would oversee both online gambling and brick-and-mortar casinos.
The bill includes a fair number of restrictions that have been criticized by some as heavy-handed. A licensing fee of €1.5 million euros was proposed for online gambling licenses in addition to similar fees for anyone seeking to open a physical casino.
Additionally, the proposal calls for online gambling operators to be located in Ukraine and prove they have at least €2 million in non-borrowed capital. A 20% tax on gross gaming revenue tops it all off. Industry insiders have been critical of the bill even if they do appreciate that it at least represents a step in the right direction.
Depositing in Hryvnia
I have good news and bad news on this front. The good news is that Ukrainian betting sites accept a wide variety of deposit methods that are both common and easy to use. You can fund your account with Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, Neteller, Skrill, Entropay, Qiwi, bank wire, check and more.
All accepted deposit methods are fine with very small deposits, large deposits and everything in between. Additionally, most betting sites charge no fees for transferring.
The bad news is that very few betting sites accept hryvnia deposits straight up. This won’t stop you from playing, but your site will have to convert your money over to EUR, GBP or USD when you deposit and there may be a small exchange fee. It’s not a terrible deal, but you do need to make sure you keep track of how much you’re spending when you play in a currency with which you’re not familiar.
One thing you can do to minimize any conversion fees is open a Skrill or Neteller account in the Euro currency and then use the e-wallet to make your deposits and withdrawals. This will help you save on exchange fees as you only pay them when you load money into and out of your e-wallet. Doing it this way will allow you to move your money between various betting sites in euros and not have to convert your currency every time you try a new gambling website.
Is it legal to bet online in Ukraine?
Bear in mind that I am not a lawyer versed in Ukrainian legal matters, but online betting is not illegal in Ukraine. The law does not specifically legalize the activity, but neither does it criminalize online gambling. Many Ukrainians bet online every year in the country and nobody has gotten in trouble for doing so to date.
This is actually a pretty common situation on the international stage – many countries make it illegal to run a gambling operation but couldn’t care less what you do as an individual. As long as you don’t decide to open your own gaming website, you should be fine. Under the current political climate, it looks more likely that gaming laws will be relaxed rather than strengthened.