Sportsbook Operators Pull Out of Russian Market
Online sports gambling providers are taking action. One of the reasons is the uncertainty builds regarding the future of Eastern Europe. Another reason is the news emerging from Ukraine grows increasingly horrific. Aspire Global has already opted to end its contract with Sports Lotteries LLC, who runs the Russian National Lottery. Meanwhile, other organisations such as Bet365 and BETER have closed their operations in the country.
Even outside of the Russian market, sportsbook operators are removing Russian-based competitions from their betting roster. DraftKings, BetMGM, and FanDuel have stopped publishing odds and taking bets on sports competitions in Russia. Examples are the Kontinental Hockey League, the Moscow Pro Liga table tennis competition, and soccer’s Russian Premier League. Other operators have also removed Belarusian sporting competitions from their sportsbooks in response to the Eastern European country’s ongoing support for Moscow.
The Changing Face of Online Sports Betting in Russia
These are significant moves from sportsbook operators. Russia is a major global market for online sports betting, and a growing one at that. In 2019, line-in-play betting was worth $76.4 million. Fixed-odds betting and daily fantasy were valued at $56 million and $46.2 million, respectively. All of these values will roughly double by 2025. They will hit respective totals of $149.1 million, $108.2 million, and $110.6 million in the coming three years.
Traditionally, the most popular competitions for online sports betting in Russia involve soccer. The second most popular sport was horse racing in 2019. However, statistics suggest that motor racing would eclipse this over the coming years. All in all, online gambling on Russian sports was expected to grow to $613.5 million by 2026. This means an increase of more than 173% on 2018’s totals.
Other areas of gambling looked likely to exhibit even more rapid growth. eSports gambling, for example, tripled in revenue between 2019 and 2026. It grew from $28.6 million to $84 million. This shows that the Russian market has not only been a healthy one, but it is also a market willing to embrace new concepts and gaming formats.
Sportsbook Providers Show Their Support
Of course, we recorded all of these positive growth indicators in 2020, around two years before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Russian Federation had already annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014, and had backed separatist fighters in the Donetsk and Luhansk. However, the mass invasion in February 2022 took many by surprise.
Perhaps also surprising the public and private sanctions levied on the Russian economy. As global governments impose restrictions on Russian imports and revoke Russian access to goods and services, and as private companies cease trading in the world’s ninth most populous country, we are seeing an almost unprecedented economic response.
Many sportsbook providers have decided that they cannot continue to provide online sports gambling services in Russia or support Russian sports competitors and teams. While these connections are likely to be rebuilt in the event of Russia’s withdrawal from Ukraine, recent actions do show that sportsbook providers are willing — at least in the short term — to take a meaningful stance on a global political issue.