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28 Mar, 2024 17:14

Ukrainian army gripped by gambling addiction – MP

90% of soldiers spend their earnings on online casinos and sports betting platforms, Aleksey Goncharenko claims
Ukrainian army gripped by gambling addiction – MP

The Ukrainian army has a huge gambling problem, Aleksey Goncharenko, a senior Ukrainian MP, wrote on his Telegram channel on Thursday. The lawmaker said 90% of soldiers are wasting money in online casinos and on sports betting platforms, instead of saving it for the future.

“This is not just a problem. It’s crazy. 9 out of 10 soldiers on the front lines have a casino or gambling problem. Money is lost. Then they take loans. And so it goes in a circle,” he complained.

According to Goncharenko, the problem is severe not only because it is “destroying the military morale” on the frontlines, but because soldiers who lose their earnings will become “perfect targets” for the criminal world once they return home penniless.

“Right now, we are simply laundering money out of our country’s budget. But we are also creating a problem for the future,” he warned.

The lawmaker suggested that the situation should be dealt with by the government. He proposed monitoring online gambling platforms and banning military personnel from accessing them. He also offered to reform the local eOselya program, a government initiative that provides affordable housing loans for soldiers, to make it more appealing for them as an investment.

Goncharenko’s statements came in response to a story on Strana.ua (https://strana.ua/) drawing attention to the army’s gambling problem after several angry posts on X (formerly Twitter) by Pavel Petrichenko, a Ukrainian soldier who accused authorities of failing to rein in the online casino market.

“I wonder what needs to happen for the epidemic of gambling addiction to be noticed in Ukrainian society and especially in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It was caused by idiots who launched an uncontrolled online casino market. If you decide to legalize this crap, then at least control it,” he wrote on X on Wednesday.

Petrichenko proposed setting up a register of gambling platforms and introducing mandatory verification of players for the duration of the current conflict, so as to block users who receive salaries from the military from accessing such venues.

Ukraine passed legislation legalizing various forms of online gambling back in 2020. The law allowed online casinos, poker, and sports betting sites to freely operate in the country. According to analysts, due to weak initial policy decisions and corruption, Kiev cannot adequately control the operations or monitor the income of these platforms. As a result, they withhold tens of billions of hryvnias (hundreds of millions of US dollars) they should be paying in taxes from the country’s budget

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