Russia’s bookmakers are looking forward to a bonanza from the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but would like to see regulations eased, in particular with regard to online bets from foreign visitors, to enable them to take full advantage.
Leading bookmakers at the recent Russian Betting Trends in Moscow forum predicted a big jump in volumes for the tournament, although estimates vary widely. During the 2010 and 2014 championships international bookmakers in Russia enjoyed a big increase in business, with William Hill seeing bets up 97 percent.
"Forecasts say that the volume of bets during the 2018 Cup will increase six- to eight-fold, when it comes to Liga Stavok, 1xStavka by 60-70 percent, Baltbet, by 15-40 percent," gaming expert and editor in chief of the Bookmakers' Rating publication Alexei Tkachuk said.
Leonid Obozny, who heads the First Gaming Company, providing software and services for bookmakers, dubbed the upcoming event "Christmas for bookmakers," adding that football is "one of the most in-demand types of sport in Russia, but is slightly losing its popularity because basketball, volleyball and tennis are all rapidly developing."
"Global and European championships generate up to 450 percent of new players and up to 2,800 percent of those reactivated, those who used to make bets but then stopped," Obozny said, referring to data collated from his own clients.
He also noted there has been a shift in betting trends in Russia. In modern betting, there are twice as many "live" bets as "pre-match", with on average a 65 percent to 35 percent ratio. But at the World Cup 2014 and Euro 2016 the picture had changed. During the 2014 World Cup tournament 63.1 percent of all the bets were pre-match, compared to 66 percent in 2016.
Obozny said this had come about because of increased expertise and a player's understanding of pre-match positions.
The newly appointed head of the Bookmakers Self-Regulating Organisation, Konstantin Makarov, noted that the upcoming tournament includes 64 football matches in 11 Russian cities and has attracted over 600 billion roubles ($10.7 billion) of investments.
He also noted that one of the problems his bookmaking company, BingoBoom, faced in regard to the FIFA Cup concerns identification of foreign clients wanting to bet online.
"We don't know yet how TSUPIS [Russia's system to process online bets] will react to foreign passports," he said, adding that it might be easier to place e-bets with foreign bookmakers which do not require such a cumbersome registration procedure. Currently to register in TSUPIS a person should not only register online, but also personally visit a bookmaker’s shop to present their ID.
Makarov insisted that the existing rules should be relaxed and the issue put up for discussion with regulating bodies.
A representative from First Tsupis said that it managed to find ways to accept e-bets from nationals from the CIS member states. It is worth noting that this issue mostly concerns CIS labour migrants with work permits and not tourists. It’s currently unclear what volume of bets these customers would be likely to place.
Makarov also praised the authorities for the "gift” they made to bookmakers with a new bill allowing them to advertise during sports live broadcasts. But added it is the right time for Russian bookmakers to step up their efforts in persuading authorities to open betting shops at stadiums.
Currently they are almost non-existent due to legal limitations forbidding the placement of betting shops near educational institutions, including youth sports schools, and at municipally-owned stadiums.
"But now a number of stadiums are already owned by private companies. This is a signal to all bookmakers, including our company, why not raise questions about the placement of betting shops in stadiums during the 2018 World Cup,” he said.
The good news for bookmakers is that, despite initial concerns over the new bill on deductions to sports federations, it won't apply to the FIFA World Cup because it is organized by a foreign organization, according to Russian betting lawyer Maria Lepeshchikova.
"The organizer of the World Cup is FIFA which is not a party of the Russian professional sport. Therefore, bookmakers will be able to accept bets on its matches without concluding agreements. Even in spite of the fact that the World Cup 2018 will be held in Russia," she added.
The bill, which came into effect on 1 April, stipulates that bookmakers are required to make 5 percent deductions to Russian sports leagues and federations if they take bets on sports events organized by them.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and former Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko wants bookmakers to allocate about 1 billion roubles on sports a year. According to the bill, each licensed bookmaker is required to allocate at least 60 million rubles a year.
Multiplied by the number of issued bookmaker licenses, you will get a figure close to 2 billion rubles a year, she said, but some companies are likely to refuse to take such bets.
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