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The international gaming industry exhibition returns to Ukraine

On June 9-11, 2021, the exhibition “Gaming Industry-2021” will take place in Kyiv. Its organizers are convinced that this event will contribute to the further development of the gaming business in Ukraine and attract additional investment to the industry.

A good start in the early ’90s

Gaming in Ukraine began to develop in the early ’90s. At the same time, some people were interested in professional work in this market. There was a need to study interesting experiences and innovations in the entertainment industry not only within the country but all over the world. And this led to the idea to organize a specialized profile exhibition.

Employees of the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) undertook its preparation. Its then vice-president Valery Biliy recalls that he had no doubts about the success of the exhibition, as the specialists of the CCI unit were involved, for whom the work related to the organization and holding of such mass events was quite common. The exhibition was then called “Entertainment Industry”.

The Entertainment Industry started in 1994 and was a success from the very beginning. It was no accident that the capital’s Palace of Sports venue was chosen for the event, which could accommodate a large number of participants and guests. The calculation of the organizers of the exhibition was completely justified: the interest in the event was extraordinary. It attracted not only market representatives but also ordinary people who were interested in innovations in the field of recreation and entertainment. All this prompted the organizers to make such an exhibition regular and hold it every year in early autumn.

In the 2000s, the entertainment industry changed its location. Now it was held at the International Exhibition Center (IEC), located on Brovarsky Avenue in the Ukrainian capital. The center had a really large exhibition area, which opened up new opportunities to expand the space and create more comfortable conditions for both participants and visitors of the exhibition. The market reacted accordingly to the professional approaches of the organizers: the exhibition soon became one of the most popular in the world. According to a survey by the British magazine InterGame, which is one of the most authoritative publications in the world of gaming business, the Kyiv exhibition “Entertainment Industry” ranked seventh in the world in the international ranking of related events.

Banned industry

In 2009, the gambling business in our country was outlawed. The decision was made by the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament. — Ed.). And although the (then) President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko vetoed the law, MPs overcame it, thus banning the development of the entire industry.
Valery Belyi is convinced that such actions of the authorities have caused irreparable damage not only to the domestic entertainment industry but also to the Ukrainian economy as a whole. He cited the calculations of experts, according to which as a result of the prohibition law 200 thousand people lost their jobs, and annual revenues to the state budget were reduced by 3.5  billion hryvnias.

The organizers of the exhibition also faced negative consequences. “After 2009, we tried to hold it for another two years, but then it made no sense to prepare this event,” said Valery Biliy. The history of the exhibition “Entertainment Industry” was over.

The idea of reviving the Kyiv exhibition became possible only after the adoption of a new law “On state regulation of activities related to the organization and conduct of gambling” in 2020, which legalized the gaming business in Ukraine. Companies specializing in the entertainment industry began to return to the market, and new participants interested in the civilized development of the gaming industry began to enter. Leading world brands are also showing interest in it. Therefore, the organization of a specialized exhibition was only a matter of time. And it was decided not to procrastinate with it.

Implementation of new ideas

The traditional Kyiv exhibition returns, but this time under a different name — “Gaming Industry”. Valery Biliy explains that this is no accident. The organizer of the exhibition has changed. Now it is taken care of by the company “Potok-­Centrum”. The market is being modernized, the terms, which are usually used by specialists, are already widely used. Therefore, the concept of “gaming” is now familiar to many and sounds modern. The organizers of the exhibition decided that such an update would be appropriate.

“But the main thing is that we managed to keep the team that in previous years worked on the organization and holding of this international event, and this is a guarantee that this time it will be held at a high level,” said Valery Biliy.

It was previously planned to hold an exhibition in May this year. But adjustments have been made due to the COVID‑19 pandemic and related restrictions.

“When we were preparing this exhibition, we were looking at the dates of similar events abroad. We already knew that the exhibition will be strong enough, that foreign partners are interested in our market, so it was necessary to provide not only comfortable but also safe conditions for its holding, ” Valery Biliy explained.

The exhibition “Gaming Industry‑2021” is scheduled for June 9–11. Like the previous ones, it will be held at the International Exhibition Center. It is sponsored by IGT, a company that is considered the world leader in the gaming industry. It has a strong market position and well-established relationships with government officials and regulators in more than 100 countries. The capacity of this company is evidenced by the fact that it employs almost 12 thousand people.

In addition to IGT, as of the end of April, about 50 Ukrainian and foreign companies have applied to participate in the exhibition.

“A lot of our companies are affiliated with foreign ones,” explains Valery Biliy. — Therefore, it is difficult to say that they are purely Ukrainian. But 60 percent are domestic companies, and 40 percent are foreign and they are very powerful. “

Among those who will take part in the exhibition are — SoftSwiss, NovomatiC, APEX, Fazi, EGT, Gambee, B4G, Kupidon, Spintec, Merkur Gaming, Nebula. Royal. CT Gaming, DAL NEGRO, Advansys, GameМaster, GameBridge, PASCA, Fun Game, Interblock, Thunderspin, Boss, CTC Holdings, Winsystems, Games club, Galaxion, Zitro, Zoom, ISMS, OS-eco, DIS works, Kyiv Regional Center, Ribas hotels group, Legard Attomey at law, All-­Ukrainian Sports Poker Federation, Casino live.
The organizers also do not rule out that the number of exhibitors may increase before the start of its work.

A platform for generating ideas

“Gaming Industry‑2021” can be a good impetus for the development of gambling in our country after its legalization. Today, many companies will have to resume their work after a long break, so to some extent, even catch up with those who have already moved forward. But there are also Ukrainian companies that did not cease their activities during the lull and focused on working in other jurisdictions, on export deliveries. Now they will have to master the renewed domestic market, entering into fierce competition with their foreign counterparts.
During the formation of the gaming business in Ukraine in the 90s, many small companies operated on the market. They provided operator services, specialized in the manufacture of gaming equipment and accessories, software development, and more. But will they be able to survive in the current environment, when the development trends of the gaming industry are already determined by powerful global companies that are enriched with significant experience and quickly master new technologies, including the capabilities of the Internet?
“I want to say that this business is not for small companies,” Mr. Biliy shared his thoughts on the prospects for the development of the industry. — Of course, they can take part in it. Once, in Ukraine, there was a center for the development and supply of slot machines, which worked around the world. We made very cool tables for billiards, made “iron” for machines. If we continue to act in this direction, then yes, there will be a place for small companies. But to be serious about the gambling business, you need to have certain “financial muscles”.
He also believes that during the exhibition, Ukrainian market participants can get opportunities to build such muscles. The exhibition is not only a demonstration of new products, services and technologies but also a wide platform for discussing business prospects and existing problems in the field, for establishing business contacts and the birth of new ideas. Also, and this happens quite often, it becomes a place for signing contracts for the supply of equipment and cooperation agreements.
“When there are prospects, there are problems. We will provide companies with platforms where they could get acquainted with the opportunities for the development of the industry and overcome the problems they face. We will involve government representatives, people who are appointed to regulate the gaming business in our country”, said Valery Biliy.
To this end, the exhibition includes conferences to which leading market experts and business representatives are invited.

Taxes and de-shadowing

One of the hot topics, which was announced for discussion during the exhibition “Gaming Industry‑2021”, discusses the tax burden on the gambling business. Its participants often complain that they are currently too high in our country, so they are unlikely to contribute to the full legalization of this market. According to many experts, this is why many companies are in no hurry to buy licenses to carry out their activities and only observe the situation and expect positive changes. In particular, they hope to make changes to the Tax Codex, which should be done immediately.

In this regard, Valery Biliy has his vision. “I don’t think taxes are the main problem,” he said. — If you look at other countries, the taxes are not smaller, and often even higher than in Ukraine. I understand the representatives of those companies who say that it is difficult to start a business now because there was a very long break. But let’s be honest, discussions about taxes are often started by those who do not want to work honestly in this market. Because in this case, there’s a cut-off of those who had their gambling establishments 20 meters away from institutes, universities, schools, where they turned a blind eye to the fact that students and minors came to play, as well as addicts. Those who worked illegally only at the expense of bribes paid to regulatory authorities will also leave the market.
That means the market will become more controlled, and therefore more civilized. “

At the same time, Valery Bily is convinced that it is extremely important that various exhibitors have the opportunity to express their views on how to solve tax, regulatory and other problems on a compromise basis. And such approaches, mutual respect and understanding will also influence the successful development of the gambling services market in Ukraine.

Thanks to this, the exhibition itself becomes one of the tools for the legalization and decriminalization of the gambling business.

“First of all, it will show the real players of this market. They will openly come to the exhibition and once again declare their desire to work honestly and legally, without bribes and shadow schemes, “–Mr. Biliy stated.

Exhibition program

It is envisaged that the program of the exhibition “Gaming Industry‑2021” will be multidisciplinary and will satisfy the interests of various market participants. It consists of six sections: “Game”, “Amusement Machines”, “Entertainment”, “Vending and Terminals”, “Computer Entertainment” and “Services”. Each of these sections reveals the possibilities of a particular area of the entertainment industry.

“The exhibition is a marketing tool for participants, a tool for identifying how much the local market is interested in services and products. We hold the exhibition, first of all, to show the participants what is happening in the world of the entertainment industry, what are current trends, what new technologies are used and what they can use. Our exhibition is also designed to help attract foreign investment to Ukraine. This market is now open, and many foreign companies are willing to come to us, ” said Valery Biliy.

He is convinced that the current exhibition will be continued. Plans are already being developed to hold it annually.

“We are considering the following options: one specialized exhibition and one large conference, which will be spread over time. If all goes well, we plan to hold the next exhibitions every autumn. And they will take place in Kyiv,” Valery Bilyi summed up.