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Stars sets sights on Russia

Stars Group has set it sights on Russia, saying it intends to obtain a bookmarking licence and will promote its PokerStars brand on a local cable channel.

Canada-based Stars Group will “soon” launch its promotion campaign on the Russian television channel UFC, Russian business daily RBC quoted Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi as saying on a recent conference call.

Ashkenazi also added that the company plans to file a request with the Russian Federal Tax Service for a bookmaker license for the PokerStars Sports brand.

These measures, according to Ashkenazi, will help improve the situation on the Russian market, which is already recovering. 

PokerStars is one of the world's largest online poker services. The revenue of the entire Stars Group, which also owns the brands BetStars, Sky Betting & Games and Full Tilt, in the first half of 2019 exceeded $1.2 billion, of which poker brought $411.6 million.

RBC noted that Russia is one of the key markets for the Stars Group, but it does not have a legal entity in Russia and, accordingly, does not have a license from the Federal Tax Service to organize and conduct gambling.

In March 2014, Russian communications watchdog Roskomnadzor blocked the site and currently only its Russian-language “mirror” is available to users, which notifies punters that online poker services are provided to them by the Rational Poker School Ltd., registered on the Isle of Man.

To maintain Russians' interest in online poker, the Stars Group sponsors poker tournaments in the Sochi gambling zone. Their total prize fund in 2018, as indicated in the company's statements, amounted to 150 million roubles, or $2.6 million.

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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