Eight years ago, the Ukrainian government’s Justice Department decided that poker was not a sport but in conflict with national gambling law, and removed the popular genre from the national Register of Recognised Sports.
The unilateral decision triggered a storm of protest from poker clubs, which formed an alliance and took the case to the Supreme Court in 2013, achieving a positive outcome, albeit one restricted to tournament poker only.
Despite the court victory, little obvious change in the legal status quo appeared to take place, perhaps because the country was by then wracked by division as Russian-supported rebels tried to return to the Russian federation.
Subsequent reports revealed that the technically illegal status of cash game poker notwithstanding, games were taking place both online and at terrestrial venues.
In the most recent development, the government position was reportedly clarified by a document published by the Ministry of Youth and Sport, in which it listed “sport poker” as an authorised sport, presumably in terms of the Supreme Court decision.
It’s a hopeful sign, but local observers have cautioned that a properly structured and legal environment will be dependent on the introduction of new regulations…and there has thus far been little indication that government is working towards this goal.