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Zelenskyy restricts online casinos to curb troop gambling addictions

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In 2023 the number of people on the state’s register of gambling addicts, which forbids them access to online casinos, grew from 450 to 3,700 according to the Ukraine Commission for Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries. The list likely under-represents the real figure, however, as it includes only those who voluntarily add their names or are ordered to do so by a court.

Ukraine Army Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskiy will be charged with banning gambling by military personnel during the country’s current war with invading Russian troops.

However, Maksym Skubenko, CEO of the VoxUkraine NGO and a junior sergeant in the 5th Separate Assault Brigade of Kyiv, now fighting near Bakhmut, told POLITICO that a ban won’t work.

“The ban may even worsen the situation,” he said, highlighting that illegal casinos already exist. A better solution, he argued, would be to increase the financial literacy of military personnel.

While Skubenko himself never took an interest in online casinos, he recalled that when he served in the Territorial Defense Forces in Kyiv region, several people in his unit played often. “Though no one played during active hostilities. There was simply no time at all,” he said.

“There must be a person in every unit who knows what is happening to the servicemen, their psychological state, what they read, and what they play in their spare time,” Skubenko told POLITICO. “The command should also identify fighters who can be called opinion leaders in the army and cooperate with them. Because other soldiers listen to their words.”

Monthly salaries for Ukrainian soldiers range from UAH 30,000 to UAH 100,000 (€700 to €2,350), depending on military rank and сombat performance. The minimum wage in Ukraine, by contrast, is UAH 8000 (€190).

The Ukrainian government allocated more than UAH 862 billion (€20 billion) in state funding in 2024 to military salaries — the largest portion of the country’s defense spending Kyiv must cover without foreign aid.

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