Ukraine legalises gambling after hiatus

by Noah Taylor Last Updated
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Casinos are on their way to Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelensky legalised gambling.

Calvin Ayre reports that legislators were able to approve a casino bill in July without too much resistance.

With the ink now dry, Ukraine could see new casinos popping up before the end of the year.

The country decided to ban almost all types of gambling 11 years ago.

As a result, Ukraine suddenly had a huge void in its revenue that it wasn’t able to fill and to add insult to injury, black market operations began springing up with no way to stop them.

When President Zelensky was sworn in last year, he vowed to reverse the damage and allow a regulated gaming industry.

The path to legalised, regulated gambling in the country was not an easy one and there was a lot of initial opposition.

Lawmakers stalled and argued, failing to reach agreements on key areas such as licensing, taxes and more.

Perhaps as a result of a fledgling global economy caused by COVID-19, legislators suddenly found a way to put aside their differences to fast track the bill earlier this year.

Ukraine will now have eight regulated gambling sectors – online casino, retail casino, online sports gambling, retail sports gambling, slot machine venues, online poker, lotteries and totalizer contracts.

If everything goes to plan, the country expects to pick up around $166 million from gambling tax revenue and licensing this year alone.

Donaco settles legal proceeds with Thai businessman

Australian-listed boutique casino group Donaco International announced that it has officially settled various legal proceedings with a group headed by the prominent Thai businessman and politician Somboon Sukjaeroenkraisri.

The Thai group also includes Somboon’s two sons, Lee Bug Huy and Lee Bug Tong.

The settlement reached finalises proceedings in Singapore, Australia, Thailand and Cambodia relating from Donaco’s acquisition of the Star Vegas casino located in the Cambodian-Thai border town of Poipet, according to an Australia Securities Exchange release distributed by the board of directors.

Khmer Times reported in March the release stated the two parties reached a settlement that amended the perpetual lease agreement, granting Donaco security of tenure over the casino until 2115.

In return, Donaco will receive $38 million to remove the non-competition and non-solicitation clauses in the share sale agreement, pay $18 million to settle the claims for unpaid managements fees (plus interest) and pay any outstanding rent and an additional lease payment of $20 million to Lee Hoe Property.

The Thai group has also agreed not to dispose of any Donaco shares for a period of six months from the date of settlement.

Somboon Sukcharoenkraisri currently holds 148,199,529 shares, 17.99 per cent of Donaco.

The Thai group said the share sale agreement will be amended to acknowledge the existence of the competing casino constructed near the Star Vegas casino, the cessation of all legal actions and mutual releases and the management agreement will be terminated.

Chairman of Donaco, Mel Ashton, said: “We have reached a pragmatic and fair settlement of this long-running dispute, in what we believe is a timely manner.

“Most importantly, the remaining value of the Star Vegas business is retained for shareholders, and we do not expect any changes to the carrying value of the asset as a result of this settlement.

He added: “This gives us the stable platform we need to press forward on our other two key priorities for shareholders.”

The settlement reached provides certainty of tenure for the Star Vegas business and will conclude all disputes between the parties.

It will also allow the company and management to now focus on the forward momentum of the profitable Star Vegas business and continued improvements to the company’s balance sheet and financial position ahead of any Covid-19 effects on second half revenue and earnings, the ASX release stated.

Donaco bought Star Vegas from Somboon’s group for $360 million, five years ago.

Under the deal, Somboon retained management of Star Vegas.

In return, he received 120 million shares and $60 million annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation.

Legal issues started when Donaco decided not to extend the management deal in 2017 after accusing Somboon of building two casinos nearby in violation of the non-compete clause of the sale agreement.

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