Tamara Golubchik, owner and CEO of company Fun Game, in the gambling business since 1997.
Exactly 12 years have passed since the ban on gaming in Ukraine (May 15, 2009).
How did you survive this period, what did you do?
Company Fun Game appeared in the market in 1997. And we were a serious enough player till the ban of the gambling business in Ukraine. The company had high-class production facilities, produced certified and competitive gambling equipment. The cases for slot machines were manufactured according to our drawings by a Ukrainian high-technology enterprise that specialized in elevator production. And we were engaged in component assembling. The “kits” i. e. a software we bought from Bulgarians and other non-European producers. We used our equipment only in Ukraine.
Besides, at that time we had the only company in Ukraine which back in 2006 obtained the license for a mobile casino. It is a pity, but the level of the technologies of that time did not suffice for the quick development of this casino. It ceased to work in 2009 after the gambling business was banned because we could not engage in these activities either offline or online. We did not use any shadow mechanism.
During the ban time, we tried to work in Africa, in particular in Congo and Tanzania. But it did not last long, literally two years. The point is that somebody had to be there all the time but none of us had such a possibility.
During these 12 years three presidents succeeded in Ukraine, governments changed also. Every time we hoped the gambling business should be legalized. We were invited to respective law-making work in this direction. The most active efforts to revive this business were made in 2014 after Poroshenko came to power. But it failed. As somebody of journalists said, the “lottery lobby” was too strong. The trade managed to revive only when Zelenskyy was elected as the President of Ukraine. The law has been approved but with extraordinary efforts.
In your opinion, with the adoption of last year’s law on the legalization of gaming in Ukraine, will the situation improve, are you satisfied with the law as a whole?
This law does not satisfy both in the whole and in detail. But in any case, it is better than nothing. Will it promote the business? It is difficult to say now. The law consists of some poorly related parts. There are breaches of some principles of taxation, certification, etc. And it makes the law too complicated for use. In addition, up to this time the Law #2713‑d regulating relative taxation has not been adopted yet. And without it, the law on gambling legalization is simply inoperative. Problems are remaining in this sphere. The absence of great western operators and big western players says that the market is not opened yet.
Have you monitored the gaming businesses in other countries, how the industry has evolved?
We have a lot of acquaintances, partners and former partners all over the world. With many of them, we keep not only professional but simply friendly relations. That is why we were “within the subject”. Besides, we regularly visited exhibitions — British, American — in order not to fall behind in innovations in the trade. Since gambling — it is rather the way of life than only business. That is why we have not entirely dropped out from the structure. Though if speaking about the technical aspect it is pity but we have lost these years.
Do you think the industry is being revived or reborn?
I think that in Ukraine the gambling business has a new birth. And now it has nothing in common with that of 2009. Without any doubt everything has changed: the market-leading companies, technologies, views and approaches. Crisis difficult time has also left its mark. So, we should speak not about revival but the appearance of practically new trade.
Have you already received a license to continue operating?
Today we plan to obtain two licenses — one for online casinos and another for the chain of arcades. We have already applied with documents for an online casino but to our regret, our application remains still unexamined. The committee motivated it using various formal clauses. Moreover, during each examination, they put forward reasons according to which we do not meet the requirements. But it is the work routine of committees in various branches of business: when examining an application they have the right to point out one item but not all items which do not satisfy them. We have far-reaching plans but they depend on legislative instruments. We do not hurry today and wait for the adoption of Law #2713‑d.