Bwin’s Russian-licensed online gambling site has permanently shut its digital doors, while Bet365’s Russian plans appear to be just getting started. This weekend, the Bwin.ru site stopped working for local bettors, who found the site’s home page displaying a message saying only that the site was “unavailable at present,” citing unspecified “system maintenance work.” The site’s social media feeds went silent and questions regarding the outage went unanswered. On Monday, Bwin.ru confirmed that its closure was permanent, based on “rapidly changing realities and new legislative initiatives.” In order to “make Bwin’s withdrawal from the Russian market as comfortable as possible for all customers, we have reached an agreement with one of the industry leaders, Parimatch.”Bwin customers will reportedly find the funds held in the Bwin.ru accounts transferred to Parimatch.ru, and customers who decide to wager with Parimatch “will be able to receive a unique bonus offer.” The migration to Parimatch will reportedly be complete by the end of the month. The statement featured comments from Parimatch Russia CEO Ruslan Medved, who noted that “not all companies are now able to compete with the mastodons and, no less important, with the market itself and its realities.” Medved said Parimatch would make the migration “as painless as possible for everyone without sacrificing loyalty.” Bwin became the first western betting brand to launch in Russia in November 2017 through a partnership between its UK parent company GVC Holdings (since rebranded as Entain) and local outfit Digital Betting LLC. The former supplied the betting technology while the latter supplied the bookmaking license and was supposed to also provide marketing muscle.Bwin.ru’s former CEO Dmitry Sergeyev left to join Parimatch’s Russian-licensed site in May 2019 and Bwin.ru was reportedly sold to Cyprus-based Nirevia Holdings Ltd in February 2020. Sergeyev later revealed that Digital Betting owner Alexander Mamut never came through with the marketing funds he’d originally promised and the site’s popularity languished as a result. Russia’s online betting market took a pandemic hit last spring but the situation grew far tougher as the year drew to a close, culminating in the adoption of tough new regulations that demanded significantly greater financial contributions from bookmakers to Russian sports bodies.VulkanBet, which like Bwin.ru had struggled to gain acceptance with local bettors, surrendered its Russian license in December, convinced that the new regulations would render future operations even less likely to chip away market share from market-leaders Fonbet, Winline, Liga Stavok, BetCity and Parimatch. BET365.RU LAUNCH IMMINENT?That pejorative view doesn’t seem to be shared by UK-based online betting giant Bet365, which eGaming Review reported last week had registered the Bet365.ru domain with a local web registry. Bet365’s Russian license is reportedly awaiting final approval from the Federal Tax Service.Bet365’s interest in a Russian-licensed operation has been bubbling under since February 2019, when the company was said to be just a few months away from launching a Russian site. But that June, a bizarre incident occurred in which Russian authorities intercepted a shipment of 400kg of cocaine, each brick stamped with stickers bearing Bet365’s distinctive green and yellow logo. It’s unclear whether that incident had any bearing on Bet365’s apparent decision that the timing for a Russian launch wasn’t optimal. Meanwhile, Russia’s telecom watchdog Romskomnadzor continued to add Bet365-affiliated domains to its online gambling blacklist, with Bet365.com making the grade as recently as May 2020.
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