Russia’s bookmaking industry is in mourning following Friday’s news of the untimely death of Oleg Zhuravsky.
Zhuravsky (pictured), president of the First Self-Regulatory Organization of Russian Bookmakers (First SRO) and former president of Russian betting operator Liga Stavok, died suddenly on Thursday, just two weeks after celebrating his 48th birthday. The news was confirmed on Facebook via Liga Stavok’s public relations department.
Zhuravsky began his career in Russia’s betting business in 1997 and went on to establish the country’s first industry group, the National Association of Russian Bookmakers (NAL) in 2006, thereby beginning his lifelong campaign to work with government officials to ensure the development of a suitable legal environment for sports betting in his homeland.
It was in 2006 that Russia’s government first announced plans to banish all gambling activity to a handful of geographically remote designated gaming zones. It was largely thanks to Zhuravsky’s efforts that, when the government finally imposed the new restrictions in 2009, retail bookmakers were allowed to continue to operate in cities and towns across the country.
In 2008, Zhuravsky founded Liga Stavok, which was followed two years later by a separate betting brand (Oscar Yard) focused on high-rolling bettors. Zhuravsky remained Liga Stavok’s president until 2013, when he was named president of the First SRO and from that point on assumed the role of Liga Stavok’s honorary president.
Zhuravsky played a leading role in convincing Russia to authorize legal online sports betting, culminating in Liga Stavok being issued the country’s first online sports betting license in February 2016. Zhuravsky was also a strong supporter of Russian sports organizations, and served as an adviser to the Russian Premier League on sports integrity issues.
Tributes to Zhuravsky have flooded in as word of his passing spread. The First SRO issued a statement saying Zhuravsky “left behind a huge legacy,” having continued to be actively involved in lobbying government on the betting industry’s behalf “until the last moment.” The statement said Zhuravsky’s contributions to the development of Russia’s betting business are “difficult to overestimate.”
Liga Stavok praised Zhuravsky for having “wrote bookmaking history in our country.” Zhuravsky acted when others feared to act and was, “without exaggeration, the most discussed character” in Russia’s gambling business. Zhuravsky is survived by his wife, five children and five grandchildren.