The Russian government continues to exert more control over the country and a bill just approved by the state Duma has serious implications for the sports gambling industry. If there were any doubt before over the government’s desire to be able to manipulate virtually all aspects of everyday life, Bill 647044-7 shows exactly what’s in store. It’s very possible that the country’s sports gambling industry is about to see a major shift, and not for the better.
The Duma accepted the bill as it went before legislators for its second and third readings following its first appearance at the end of April. As a result, federal gambling regulations have been amended to give the Kremlin greater control over the industry and to place “limits on types of sports events that can be wagered on,” as well as an “increase in financial obligations of Russian sports betting licenses.” In other words, fewer sports gambling options and increased fees by sports gambling operators. That makes a losing equation for any business.
Going forward, licensed sportsbooks can only take bets on sports games that are officially sanctioned by a foreign or domestic governing body. While that may seem like a good way to increase integrity of the sports gambling market, and better protect gamblers, the Kremlin also has the authority to prohibit wagers on any segment at any time if it feels that it needs to intervene.
There will now also be an additional 5% tax owed on the gross gaming revenue of certain sports wagers. Previously, this tax was applied only to domestic events; however, it will now be due on international events, as well. In addition, sportsbooks will now have to carry a bank guarantee of no less than €6 million ($6.95 million) with twice that in net assets.
The new legislation won’t take effect immediately, but will be implemented soon after receiving President Putin’s signature. According to international law firm Denton, “This bill will enter into force 60 days after its official publication, which will happen after the President assents to the bill and other technicalities are completed. In terms of timelines, we are looking at the new requirements taking effect in mid-autumn 2020.”
The changes follow other recent amendments to Russia’s sports gambling industry. This past March, the country cracked down on online sportsbooks, putting forth a bill that states that gambling operators “cannot be legal entities registered in states or territories that are not providing for the disclosure and provision of information during financial transactions” to the country’s Ministry of Finance.
There are 20 licensed sportsbooks currently operating in Russia; however, the new changes might cause at least a couple to reconsider their presence. Any minor slip in adherence to protocols could force a license to be immediately revoked, without the opportunity to appeal. This level of uneasiness may force companies to feel the risk isn’t worth the reward.