Illegal gambling shadow hangs over Russia ahead of World Cup
MOSCOW – Agence France-Presse
No one expects illicit betting to play a role on the pitch when football’s most celebrated competition kicks off in 100 days.
But it represents another dark corner of Russia’s economy that the authorities have struggled to police.
“The total turnover volume of the legal and offshore online bookmaking market is more than two billion dollars (1.6 billion euros) a year,” Anton Rozhkovsky, the director of the government-mandated TsUPIS online betting payment system, told AFP.
“We do not pretend to know if the actual figure is $2.5 billion or $4 billion,” said Rozhkovsky.
“Around 70 percent of that is illegal, offshore business.”
They skirted paying taxes but were not strictly illegal.
The government tried to impose order by shutting them all down in 2009 and allowing bookies to open sport betting shops that instantly gravitated toward football.
Improved internet access pushed most of these punters online and produced a legal vacuum filled by scores of anonymous websites with no licenses but burgeoning business.
TsUPIS took its first registered bet in February 2016 and is servicing 15 authorized bookmakers.
One of these is an established Austrian brand that jumped through the hoops to obtain a license last year.But popular Irish and British bookies do not take Russian bets and the other 14 bookmakers are local start-ups.