Bookies embrace online future

Russia’s bookmakers see their future as being online, with some major players closing down traditional betting shops to focus on the interactive sector.

This year’s Russia Gaming Week reflected that trend with some bookies saying they had eschewed booths at the show to channel funds instead to the development of online services.

Bingo-Boom president and chairman of the Association of Bookmakers, Konstantin Makarov, said that this year his company decided to spend the money usually allocated for booths at RGW on the development of interactive bookmaking.

Another bookmaker, PariMatch, announced on the eve of the conference that it has closed its 27 betting shops across Russia “after it analysed mid-term and short-term trends of the Russian and global market.” Its CEO Anatoly Merezhko said that “we think that the future lies with online gambling and dynamically developing mobile betting.”

There are some some 7,000 bookmaking outlets across Russia, but the number is shrinking as the picture in the online world becomes clearer. 

Russia passed legislation to regulate online sports betting in 2014, though its implementation was repeatedly delayed.

The industry will be governed through a system of Self Regulatory Organizations with all payments to be processed through a centralized system, known as TSUPIS. The first of which was finally launched in early 2016. 

Summit Ascent to be lone player for two more years

Summit Ascent Holdings, operator of Tigre de Cristal in Vladivostok, is set to continue to get free reign over the market for at least the next two years, says Union Gaming. The brokerage said its VIP segment will be the main winner, forecasting an 80 percent growth in VIP volume in 2017. The casino saw VIP growth of 160 percent in 17Q1. An online visa application system, which goes live in three weeks, should also help drive volume too, said the brokerage. “Ultimately, we like the odds of a jurisdiction that is friendly with China to enjoy the benefits of outbound Chinese tourism, which, when combined with access to the underpenetrated northeast of China, makes for a compelling long-term growth story.”

NagaCorp renames Russia project

NagaCorp has renamed its Russian casino project in Primorye to Naga Vladivostok, local media reports. “The second casino in the Primorski Kray will be called not Mayak, as investors earlier said, but Naga Vladivostok. Obviously, the new version sounds more serious, which can’t but please us,” said head of the Primorsky Territory Development Corporation, Andrei Folomeev. This is the second renaming of NagaCorp’s Primorye project, which initially was dubbed Naga Entertainment City before being changed to Mayak (Russian for ‘lighthouse’ or ‘beacon’).

Although the legislation appears to be still evolving, the government has been cracking down hard on international operators offering their services to Russians from outside the country to foster growth at home. Gibraltarbased Betvictor was one of the most recent to leave, announcing its exit in February.

They also prohibit online casino games and online poker. There are currently only around 10 bookmakers approved to offer online wagers to Russian punters, with 1xbet the traffic leader, followed by Fonbet and Liga Stavok. 

However, in a sign that there is still international interest in the market, Bwin in early June launched a new service with ambitious plans.

Bwin Russia CEO Dmitry Sergeev said that the original work on the project began more than two years ago when he was working for Digital Betting. Bwin.ru is a joint project of GVC Holdings and two companies belonging to businessman Alexander Mamut, Digital Betting and Rambler & Co.

At that time, the TSUPIS had not yet been launched, and illegal bookmakers were uncontrolled. But he said the company decided to be proactive, and the subsequent changes in the law allowing legal bookmakers to actively develop products proved that it was the right decision.

According to Sergeev, the annual volume of Russian e-betting amounts to RUB140 billion ($2.4 billion), of which RUB 30 billion translates to bookmakers’ annual profits. Digital Betting, which got a bookmaking license in March 2016 and later joined the First SRO [self-regulating organisation] of bookmakers, will operate the business under license and be responsible for marketing and global support of the platform. The two Russian companies are expected to invest about EUR10 million per year on Bwin.ru’s development.

The company has a target to gain a 10 percent share of the market and become one of the top three in Russia. It expects to start processing the first e-bets in September and focus on online only. 

First SRO president Yuri Krasovsky expressed his optimism over Bwin’s move, calling it proof of “normal control over bets in Russia and foreign bookmakers’ desire to tap into the Russian market.” 

Lawyer Maria Lepeshchikova said Bwin will have to abide by the same rules as local licensees.

“They must acquire a company that has a Russian license. All holders of [bookmaking] licenses work in accordance with established rules. The only exception is companies that received a license before 2010, which have to fulfill slightly less harsh requirements,” she added.

As a reflection of the interest in the online sector, one of the most popular sessions at RGW was the latest on the bookmaking legislation. In particular, experts discussed the newly adopted law which requires 5 percent of their profits from sports on which they take bets to be allocated to development of sports. In return they are able to advertise during events.