Ukraine is concentrating its gambling activity in one area only

Friday saw the Ukraine parliament overwhelmingly pass a measure temporarily prohibiting gambling until all casinos and slot machines are moved to a government-approved legal gambling area on the Black Sea some distance from the capital, reports Associated Press.

In a move which follows an example set by the Russian Federation (see previous InfoPowa reports), the plan is to relocate all gambling activities to the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, a popular tourist destination, turning it into a "Ukrainian Las Vegas," according to Valery Pysarenko, a politician in the ruling party.

"The gambling addiction has turned into an epidemic," Pysarenko said, "Today marks a big victory for all Ukrainians."

Pysarenko's party co-authored the bill with members of the official opposition, and it now awaits only the signature of President Viktor Yushchenko.

Yushchenko has not spoken about the law and his spokeswoman Larisa Mudrak declined to say whether he would back the bill.

Pysarenko said it was necessary to regulate the gambling industry to control gambling, and because the majority of casinos and gambling halls evade taxes. He said the state budget receives only about 700 million hryvna ($93 million) annually out of an estimated $5 billion of industry turnover.

The law prohibits gambling at the risk of hefty fines and other penalties. Those who are caught gambling could be sentenced to prison, Pysarenko said.

The ban is expected to last several months, until a new law will set up a government-controlled area for gambling.

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