BUSINESS

Russian online bookmaker traffic falls; factionalism delays online payment hub

TAGs: first sro, fonbet, Russia, tsupis

fonbet-russia-online-sports-betting-trafficFonbet remains Russia’s most popular online bookmaker, according to a new website traffic report.

Russian gambling company First Gaming, which operates under the Rub90 brand, has released its annual snapshot of the nation’s online sports betting industry. As reported by Bookmakersrating.ru, the overall volume of visits to Russian betting sites declined 24.4% last year, worse than the 11.5% decline recorded in 2014.

While Russia’s domain-blocking actions likely haven’t helped matters, First Gaming attributes the overall traffic decline to a delayed reaction by bookmakers to punters’ growing preference for mobile over desktop internet access. Desktop internet users have seen their ranks fall 47.1% to 32m while Russia’s mobile user ranks more than doubled to 50m.

Visits to Fonbet’s site hit 3.44m in December 2015, up from 2.4m in the 2014 report. Betting operator Marathon ranked second with 1.68m, although this was down sharply from 2.27m in 2014. 1xbet ranked third with 860k visits, down nearly half from 1.57m.

Only three sites – Fonbet, Olympus and Winline – recorded positive traffic gains last year. BetCity, which ranked third in 2014 at 1.63m, fell to fourth position with 730k visits.

Fonbet also dominated the country’s land-based betting market with 1024 retail points of sale, although this figure was down from 1180 in 2014. Baltbet ranked second with 812 shops (+3.2%) and 1xbet ranked third with 729 (+14.1%). Unionbet was last year’s fastest growing land-based operator, as its shop total rose more than one-third to 422.

RUSSIAN ONLINE SECTOR IN FLUX
Russian bookmakers are bracing for impact after rumors spread last month that the government is planning a tenfold increase in gambling taxes. While this policy change has yet to be confirmed, the government has confirmed that casino operators and bookmakers will now be required to submit annual and interim financial statements to the Ministry of Finance and the Federal Tax Service.

Russia’s new centralized hub for online betting payment processing – known as TSUPIS – was supposed to launch last month but was postponed indefinitely as operators line up behind rival self-regulatory organizations (SRO).

A number of bookies – including Fonbet, Atlantik-M, Bingo Boom and Johnny Game – recently quit the group known as the First SRO and joined a different SRO. The exits were reportedly sparked over concerns that First SRO members would be subject to higher commissions for utilizing TSUPIS, claims that have been denied by First SRO boss Oleg Zhuravsky, who insists that all bookies will be charged the same rate.

Zhuravsky also recently denied rumors that Russian bookies had reached a secret deal to prevent international betting operators from accessing TSUPIS in its first two years of operation in order to allow domestic operators time to adjust to the new reality without also having to fend off foreign competition.

TSUPIS’ rocky start underscores the occasionally chaotic nature of the Russian online gambling industry and should cast doubt on some international operators’ claims that Russia will authorize a regulated online poker market anytime soon.

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