Darina Denisova: Official bookmakers in Russia are a law-abiding business

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Darina Borisovna, SRO “Association of Bookmakers” under your leadership has been operating on the market for several years. How do you assess the activity of the organization at the beginning of 2020? – Companies from among the members of the SRO can objectively evaluate us. I can say that the SRO of Bookmakers does everything and even more for the development of legal bookmaking in Russia. The organization is a kind of controller of the activity of operators, a business moderator, a link between it and the authorities. Now there has been a formatting in Russian legal bookmaking – I won’t say it’s final, but it has made the rules of coexistence in the market much more open and civilized for any bookmaker in the last few years. How many bookmakers are currently in your SRO? – At the moment, 14 licensees are members of the organization. In 2019, the roster was replenished with two new bookmakers. I hope that 2020 will also bring us new members. At least there are prerequisites for this. That is, the emergence of new companies is quite likely? – Yes, the Russian market remains extremely attractive. And this is despite the rather complex regulatory legislation and very stringent financial requirements that the state imposes on new licensed bookmakers. Is the competitive struggle in Russian bookmaking carried out according to the rules? – Mostly yes. The market is already very saturated, the struggle for users between bookmakers takes place at all levels – from marketing to administrative. So far, representatives of all bookmakers have enough questions to regulators regarding equal business conditions – for example, in the context of the availability of a mandatory bank guarantee. But in general, the “rules of the game” are respected by industry participants. And certainly the industry has become much closer to high European standards compared to what happened five years ago.
SRO BC is the initiator of many proposals to change industry legislation. Does this mean that business practices are still dissatisfied with the framework in which bookmaking operates in Russia? – The task of the organization is to protect the interests of BC members and improve the business climate in general. We will always offer new initiatives to the authorities. Indeed, in Russia, the attitude towards the betting industry in society is still quite negative. These are echoes of the state’s war on illegal casinos and slot machines. The war, as they say, is not ours, but most ordinary Russians do not see the difference. Alas, people still continue to associate bookmakers with something illegal. Our goal is, among other things, to break these beliefs. After all, licensed bookmaking in the country is a law-abiding business. No one except bookmakers helps sports financially as fully in the Russian Federation as our SRO member companies. In return, business asks the authorities for clear rules of the game in the market. Let’s talk a little about the neighbors. You are probably following the situation with the adoption of the law on the legalization of gambling business in Ukraine. How do you assess the current situation? – I know that the document was adopted in January by the Verkhovna Rada in the first reading. On the one hand, this is good – after all, progress. But, on the other hand, 3,700 amendments to the bill, which, as I understand it, came from deputies, complicate the situation. How are parliamentarians going to consider all this insane amount of amendments? So it’s still unclear what to expect in the end. As I understand it, now in Ukraine the interests of several interested parties have come into contact, as a result of which we see that the adoption of the law, in fact, is “stuck”. However, are Russian bookmakers still interested in entering the Ukrainian betting market? – If it is open and orderly, companies from many countries will show interest in it. Nevertheless, we are talking about a large state with tens of millions of people, where there are many large cities. But I will make a reservation that now the industry is waiting for the adoption of a law that will be understandable and loyal to licensees. Otherwise, the interest of expat brands to enter the country will evaporate.
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