Russia seizes bricks of cocaine featuring Bet365 logo


russia-bet365-logo-cocaine-seizureOnline gambling operator Bet365’s logo has somehow ended up on hundreds of packages of cocaine seized by Russian authorities.

On Tuesday, Russia’s Federal Customs Service (FCS) announced the seizure of 400 kilograms of cocaine at the port of St. Petersburg. The drugs were found in a shipping container that originated from Ecuador, and Russia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs is working with the FCS to determine precisely who in Russia was expecting such a delivery.

The individually wrapped bricks of yéyo were found inside a shipment of canned fish but that’s hardly the only fishy aspect of this story. Indeed, the FCS published photos showing the bricks adorned with stickers displaying Bet365’s distinctive white-and-yellow-on-green logo, while the bricks themselves appear to have been molded with the word ‘BET’ (albeit in caps, unlike Bet365’s lowercase style). Other bricks featured stickers reading ‘VLTN’, possibly relating to the Valentino fashion brand.

Clearly, Bet365 has nothing whatsoever to do with this botched attempt at trafficking hard drugs, which the FCS claims has a street value of RUB4.5b (US$69.5m). Regardless, there’s probably some headscratching along with a few nervous jokes being made at Bet365’s Stoke-on-Trent headquarters, with “Stoke: rhymes with…” likely a popular option.

The timing of the bust is particularly unfortunate, given that Bet365 was rumored to be planning the launch of an online sports betting joint venture in Russia. Bet365 began running adverts seeking Russian-speaking customer service reps in January, and Russian affiliates reported that the company expected to receive its local license in the first half of 2019.

While companies such as William Hill have also been the subject of the Russian rumor mill, only one Western betting operator – GVC Holdings’ Bwin brand – has launched a Russian-licensed site to date. Furthermore, the site has struggled to gain a toehold in Russia’s online betting market, and the JV’s former CEO recently decamped to rival Parimatch, saying it was “impossible” for a Western brand to compete with familiar domestic betting operators without significantly greater marketing investment. Ahem…