“We are the first legal casino in Kyiv and Kharkiv, and we hope that our business will flourish here. We plan that illegal casinos will be closed not only because it is required by the law, but simply because people who now go to illegal casinos will start visiting us,” says Michael Boettcher, Shangri La owner.
The Kharkiv casino staff is about 300 people who have gone through several stages of training. The second Shangri La casino in Ukraine is located in the very center of the city and near the largest square in Europe – Freedom Square. The first Ukrainian Shangri La, Darren Keane, the CEO of the company recalled, is located in the capital, in the Fairmont Hotel.
“Walking around this casino, you can understand how pleased we are with the result. But we also want to tell you what is happening in the Ukrainian gambling market, because there are good and bad things here,” continues Boettcher.
Among the “good” things, the owner of Storm International singled out the very idea of legalizing the gambling business and the fact that gambling complexes can be opened exclusively on the basis of hotels in Ukraine. For example, in Kyiv casinos may appear only on the basis of five-star hotels, while for other cities four or even three “stars” will be enough.
However, the same decision played a cruel joke on the operators, as the commercial real estate market went up sharply. According to Michael Boettcher, the management of all hotels began to charge the highest rental rates for their premises.
And this, according to Boettcher, is not the “worst” thing in the new gambling market in Ukraine: “Illegal casinos are still operating here, and I don’t understand this. In 1968, the gambling business was legalized in England, after which the owners of underground casinos began to be imprisoned, destroying all their equipment. I have a question: why is it not happening in Ukraine? I can answer it, but I don’t like this answer.”
The head of the gambling company Storm International, which operates casinos and slot halls in Georgia, Armenia, Belarus and the Baltic countries, says that the further development of the gambling market in the country will depend on what the Ukrainian authorities want to get out of it.
The founder of Shangri La also said that partners in the gambling business from other countries are asking him whether it is worth coming to Ukraine. Considering that a year after legalization, all Storm International establishments, at best, go to zero, while Ukraine is a country in which you can invest $ 10, $ 15, $ 20 or even $ 50 million, and just hope that these investments will ever return.
First of all, it is necessary to solve the problems with high taxes, high licensing fees and, of course, with underground casinos.
At the same time, Ukraine is considered as an extremely promising country for the gambling in terms of its geographical location. In the US, there are casinos in nearly every state, in the East there is Macau, Singapore, the Philippines, etc. But there is nonentity in the middle. It is very difficult to make money on this in the EU, because the sphere is already highly regulated. And in Turkey, Israel and the Middle East, this business is simply prohibited. People from these countries and countries of the previous USSR can come to Ukraine.
In the near future in Ukraine, Storm International plans to open another slot hall in Kyiv and launch in Dnipro the new unit of Shangri La, Darren Keane added. But this will all depend on the company’s earnings and how much more it will have to pay to get its investment back.