The Ukraine government's abrupt ban yesterday on gambling other than in a specially delineated location  has resulted in thousands of employees of gaming halls and casinos staging protest marches and demonstrations in the country's capital, reports Reuters new service
 
According to the weekly economic journal Expert, 4 000 companies operate around 13 000 gaming halls in Ukraine.
 
Protestors in Kiev chanted slogans in front of President Viktor Yushchenko's residence, as they demanded he veto the law passed by Parliament this week that sets out the ban. The parliamentary decision has to be ratified by the president before passing into law. Another demonstration by about 600 people took place in the eastern city of Donetsk.

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One of the Kiev demonstrators, the manager of a gaming hall in the southern city of Odessa said: "We find ourselves without work in the space of one day, without any prior warning." She added: "We have children to feed, and credit to repay."
 
Anatoly Nesterenko, president of the Ukrainian Casinos Association, said the ban "will leave more than 200 000 Ukrainians without work".
 
Lawmakers who backed the ban said they were worried about a "sudden rise in the number of slot machines" and that they wanted to protect "the population's morale and health".
 
An analysis attached to the legalization says that three-quarters of slot machine players are university or school students. It also claims that in cities with 500 000 or more people, 5 percent of the population is addicted to gambling. The source of this information is not clear.
 
Reuters reports that if the ban goes ahead, it would apply until the expected introduction of proposed special zones for gaming halls.