BUSINESS

Russia’s biggest sports betting operators had a stellar 2018

TAGs: 1xbet, Liga Stavok, Mastercard, Russia, VISA

russia-sports-betting-bookmakers-world-cupRussia’s five largest sports betting operators nearly doubled their revenue last year thanks to the FIFA World Cup being played in their back yard.

Figures published Wednesday by Russian news agency Interfax show total revenue at the country’s five largest bookmakers hit RUB110b (US$1.7b) in 2018, up more than 86% from the RUB59b the top-five generated in 2017. The data was drawn from the SPARK-Interfax system, which collects info on Russian companies.

The market-leading Liga Stavok reported its revenue more than tripling to RUB36.1b, while net profit shot up more than thirty-fold to RUB620.1m. (Interfax notes that some of the revenue and profit comparisons may not be purely down to increased activity, i.e. corporate restructuring and other market factors played their part.)

Runner-up Fonbet’s revenue was up 2.5x to RUB24.1b while profit rose 5.5x to RUB9.3b. Third place went to Bingo Boom, which saw its revenue grow 2.4x to RUB20.2b while its profit fell by nearly two-fifths to RUB380.6m.

In fourth place was Betcity, the only one of the top-five to see its revenue fall last year, dipping 4.2% to RUB17.3b but profit shot up 9.5x to RUB458.4m. Rounding out the top-five was Baltbet, whose revenue rose a modest 12.5% to RUB12.2b but somehow managed to turn a net profit of RUB252m after losing RUB78.3m in 2017.

JUNE TRAFFIC SURGE FOR 1XBET
1xBet’s 2018 stats weren’t good enough to make the top-five but the company’s Russian-licensed website was the undisputed traffic leader for the month of June 2019. SimilarWeb data crunched by Betting Business Russia showed 1xStavka.ru garnered 10.7m visits in June, nearly twice the previous month’s total and well ahead of runner-ups Fonbet (8.8m) and Liga Stavok (3.1m).

It’s unclear whether all that unauthorized online video advertising of the international 1xBet domains has had a knock-on effect for the domestic site. It’s also tempting to credit 1xBet’s traffic surge to Russia’s new simplified account registration process, but that didn’t take effect until July 14.

MORE PAYMENT WOES ON THE HORIZON?
Opening an account may have gotten easier, but payment processing may get tougher as Russian legislators are pushing a new bill that might push Visa and MasterCard to abandon their Russian operations.

The draft law, which came in response to the US government imposing fresh sanctions on some Russian banks, would compel international payment processors to process Russian transactions regardless of any new sanctions.

Visa and Mastercard’s Russian subsidiaries previously stopped servicing bank cards in the Crimea after Russian military forces annexed the region from the Ukraine. Russia intends not to let that happen in the rest of Russia.

Last month, Russian media quoted inside sources saying Visa and Mastercard would likely wind down their Russian operations rather than risk punishment in the US for violating the sanctions. However, a Visa spokesperson later told Ria Novosti that Russia was a “strategically important market” and the company was “committed to ensuring the smooth operation of non-cash payments for all participants in the payment ecosystem.”

MasterCard only recently resumed processing payments for Russian-licensed bookmakers, so bettors will be hoping this return isn’t short-lived. Russian legislators are currently on their summer break but will return to the Duma on September 10 to resume debate on the proposed legislation.

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