President Yuschenko stops parliament ban in its tracks

The rather hysterical rush by the Verkhovna Rada to immediately ban gambling in the Ukraine which took place earlier this month has been stopped in its tracks by President Viktor Yuschenko, who exercised his right to veto after discussions with the Eastern European country's gambling industry.

A statement by the President's office this week confirms the veto on a proposed law to ban gambling in residential areas, but emphasises that President Yuschenko supports the need to control gambling until rigorous regulatory laws can be passed, Ukranews reports.

However, the statement advised, the president felt that the proposed law violates a number of constitutional provisions, seems to be populist and vague, and may lead to the loss of some 200 000 jobs.

"If implemented, the law will cause a 21 percent drop in GDP and the country will suffer considerable financial losses because of shortfalls in tax receipts from legal entities and individuals engaged in gambling businesses," the president’s press spokesman claimed, saying that the proposal could result in the unnecessary criminalisation of the gambling business and a sharp increase in illegal gambling houses.

Because of this, Yuschenko considers the law inadequate in terms of administrative organisation, and undesirable in its present form. The President has made a counter proposal that the law be reconsidered with the inclusion of a clear legal mechanism for regulation which eliminates any potential socio-economic and legal problems that could arise from gambling.

The President envisages a regime in which licenses already granted to business entities must not be revoked until special gambling areas are designated by a law regulating the gambling business, after which new licenses should be issued. The president further recommended that any gambling business seeking a licence should be required by law to have state social insurance including unemployment benefits for Ukrainians working in the gambling industry.

Gambling business owners should be consulted in the redrafting process, the president said, urging gambling operators to come forward with their proposals on what the revised law might contain.

Once these conditions have been met, the president is prepared to sign the ban on residential area gambling into law.

Earlier, the Yulia Tymoshenko political faction in the Verkhovna Rada had urged Yuschenko to immediately sign the draft law, despite Justice Minister Mykola Onyschuk's opinion that banning gambling businesses in populated areas of the country violates rights of gambling establishments' owners.

The ban was passed by parliament on May 15 after a fire at a gambling establishment in a residential area.

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