What problems do you see in the gambling business in Ukraine?
There are not many problems for the market. Initially, a law was passed according to which casinos can only be opened in five-star hotels in Kyiv, as well as in four-star hotels outside Kyiv. This is very smart because you are restricting gambling. You don't need everyone to gamble. It is important that people who like to play and who are ready to come from other countries for this purpose play. The geographic location of Ukraine is ideal for this. In general, taxes are also reasonable, this is a necessary part of the business, we understand this. You have a casino license, and then there are table and slot machine fees, there is also income tax, and GGR tax, which is probably high now. But several potentially problematic edits are being discussed in the government. One of them is the tax on winnings. If it is introduced, it will mean the end of the gaming industry in Ukraine. And if not the end, then a complete loss of the potential of the Ukrainian market for international players. Then gambling will go underground again. Nobody wants to play in a casino that has to pay 19.5% for whatever you win. This is ridiculous. What happens if the player loses, will the government give him 19.5% of everything that he loses? Of course not. Therefore, the tax on winnings is unfair. And one more ridiculous change: you can only bring in UAH 50,000 per person per day in a casino. If you want to receive a lot of taxes from the casino, then the casinos must make enough money to pay the high taxes. If you are not going to allow people to bring money to the casino, then the establishments will not be able to pay high taxes, besides, casinos simply will not survive, they will not be profitable. You have an excellent opportunity to develop your business and make Kyiv a resort for the whole of Europe and the Middle East. Just look at Ukraine on a map and you will see that it is the central place in the world. In the west, there are the resorts of the United States - in the east - China, and right in the middle - Ukraine. You have an incredible opportunity.
You said that you closed your casino in Riga. Was it due to tax on winnings?
Yes, I closed my casino in Riga precisely because of the tax on winnings. You tell people, "Congratulations, you won $100." Now give me back $20. What? The players said: We will not return here again. You are crazy? No, we are not crazy. But, unfortunately, the government insists that we should do just that. And so the business cannot exist.
The Shangri La casino has been operating in Kyiv for a month now. Share the first results of your work.
We are all very happy with how it all started. Let's see, because in any business you need to look at the numbers. Hopefully, there will be enough money that we can pay in taxes. We didn't expect to make a profit in the first month of operation. It is too early to say, several months should pass. And then hopefully we'll be profitable. Of course, I would not like it to turn out so that we become profitable and give all the money to the government, as is the case in Europe. It is impossible to make money on gambling in the EU.
You are one of the first operators on the legal Ukrainian gambling market. What are your emotions from the fact that you are the first?
It's great to be the first, of course. But we are taking great risks. But I believe, I believe in the market, I believe in the legislature too. I have talked to some people who understand us. And if they can convince their colleagues that it is wise to listen to people who are going to bring you money, then Ukraine will have a fantastic opportunity.
So, do you believe in our government?
I don't believe in any government. Sorry. I believe that there are people who listen to me. I know that there is, because I talked to them, and it inspires me. Now they have to convince other people. I do not like to change the opinion of government officials, because they do not want to be wrong. But everyone learns from their mistakes. You don't learn just by insisting that you are right and everyone else is wrong because this is how ships sink. "No, no, nothing bad is happening. There is nothing bad". And then boom and it's over. You must listen to the industry you are trying to regulate.
Interview especially for Gamingpost.net.
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