Ukraine Soldiers ‘Pawning Drones and Thermal Imagers’ to Gamble, Commander Says

Online gambling is apparently so rife among Ukrainian troops it has prompted one unit commander to petition the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to impose restrictions.

Many Ukrainian soldiers are turning to online gambling to cope with the stress of war, according to one unit commander who has asked President Zelensky to crack down on the industry. (Image: Politico)

Commander Pavlo Petrychenko said the problem was so bad, some servicemen had resorted to pawning drones and thermal imaging equipment to get more money to gamble.

“For many of them, gambling becomes the only way to cope with stress and therefore quickly causes dopamine addiction and weakens their self-control,” Petrychenko wrote in his petition, which was registered on the President’s Office’s website on March 29.

The commander said some servicemen would spend all their wages on gambling and then take out microloans, putting themselves and their families in a “debt hole.”

He also expressed concern about the “many Russian online casinos targeting Ukrainian consumers in order to gain access to personal data of military personnel and other citizens.”

Last year, Ukrainian authorities said they had taken steps to block offshore casino platforms targeting the country from Russia.

Petition Resonates

Petrychenko’s petition resonated with ordinary Ukrainians, and within hours it had amassed the 25,000 signatures it needed to be examined by the President.

The petition asked for legislation that would ban gambling among military personnel during martial law and prohibit pawnbrokers from accepting military equipment.

It also asked for a ban on gambling advertising using the symbols of Ukraine’s armed forces, as well as operators mentioning any charitable campaigns to assist military personnel. Petrychenko complained operators were “whitewashing” their businesses with “small charitable donations.”

Under Article 93 of the Ukrainian Constitution, Zelensky has the power of legislative initiative, which means legislation proposed by the president can be immediately considered by parliament.

Clampdown Coming?

On the evening of March 29, Zelensky said he had instructed the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the Special Communications Service, the Digital Transformation Ministry and the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council to collect all the analytics on this issue and propose a solution.

Last week, Zelensky said the government was preparing “steps that will increase control over the industry and help to protect the interests of society.”

All gambling was banned in Ukraine in 2009 following a fire in a gambling hall that killed nine people. But it was legalized again in 2020, and a regulatory body, KRAIL, was established.

However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some KRAIL committee members were mobilized into the Ukrainian army making oversight difficult.

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