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Illegal gambling sees Russian punters pouring over $1 billion per year into offshore shell accounts

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Illegal gambling sees Russian punters pouring over $1 billion per year into offshore shell accounts
Photo: AFP-JIJI
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At least $1 billion a year is believed to be pouring into offshore accounts of Russian shell companies linked to just one semi-legal but blossoming industry: online gambling.

This poses a new challenge for Russia as it prepares to host the World Cup in June and July — the country has already been plagued for decades by allegations of match-fixing in its domestic soccer.

No one expects illicit betting to play a role on the pitch when soccer’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 $2 billion (€1.6 billion) a year,” Anton Rozhkovsky, the director of the government-mandated TsUPIS online betting payment system, said.

We do not pretend to know if the actual figure is $2.5 billion or $4 billion,” he said. “Around 70 percent of that is illegal, offshore business.”

Pent-up demand for organized gambling was unleashed with the collapse of the Soviet Union and led to glitzy casinos and seedy slot machine halls opening across Russia.

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 soccer.

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.

Russia’s Bookmakers Rating gambling analysis center pegged the entire industry’s annual turnover at $11.8 billion in May 2017, 65 percent of it made in illegal online bets.

It also expected the market to triple in the next five years thanks to high-profile events such as the World Cup.

We expect colossal interest in the World Cup,” said Alena Sheyanova, spokeswoman for the legally registered bookmaker Leon. “The legal online betting industry is developing at phenomenal rates.”

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 startups.

Most of the rest are small offshore companies registered in the Netherlands Antilles, Costa Rica or European jurisdictions such as Malta and Gibraltar,” said Rozhkovsky.

Bettors going the legal route are required to pay a tax and submit identity papers in person with both TsUPIS and each bookie they use.

The laborious process can take weeks and is simply evaded by illegal websites appearing under the .com rather than Russia’s national .ru domain.

People skirt sporadic bans on such sites by using a virtual private network (VPN) to access the unfiltered internet.

Because of these technicalities, our business is not developing as quickly as it could,” Leon’s Sheyanova said.

Analysts further worry that “gray money” placed in offshore accounts may allow fixers to illegally profit off Russian soccer undetected.

Anzor Kavazashvili is a former Soviet goalkeeper who played in the 1966 and 1970 World Cups and more recently tried stamping out match fixing after being encouraged by former UEFA boss Michel Platini, who was deposed in 2015 for ethical breaches.

It was 2011 and “Platini told us we were the only country in Europe without an agency in charge of match fixing,” the 77-year-old said in an interview.

We knew games could be fixed by players, trainers, player agents and referees. So we took on a comprehensive approach.”

Kavazashvili did not last long. A scandal over a refereeing decision led to his independent council being disbanded in 2012.

Suspicious results in games were a staple of Russian soccer from the 1990s into the early 2000s. The most glaring involved smaller teams owned by local governments or businesses and playing far from the glare of the national media.

Kavazashvili said sarcastically that “our respected bookies” often played a leading role.

Some betting houses were especially fond of spreading match fixing rumors to get officials to annul results of clean matches where they were due to pay out on big bets.

The situation in the Premier League seems to have improved with time because teams are increasingly being treated like businesses.

Clean clubs have appeared whose owners see no profit in fixed results,” said Echo of Moscow radio sport commentator Anton Orekh.

But the lower leagues remain unmonitored and they, pointedly, receive an estimated one-fifth of all soccer bets.

 

Source: japantimes.co.jp

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Leading esports data and odds provider adds tier one betting brand to its impressive line-up of partners following milestone deal

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PandaScore, the leading esports data and odds provider, has put pen to paper on a breakthrough deal with tier one esports betting brand, LOOT.BET, that will see its data and odds feed made available to the operator for the very first time.

PandaScore delivers real-time data and odds across all major esports titles including League of Legends, DOTA 2, Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Rocket League, Overwatch, PUBG, FIFA, Valorant, King of Glory and many more.

The company aims to provide operators such as LOOT.BET with a one stop shop for esports betting. Its products and services include a dedicated in-house trading team combined with AI, more than 116 pre-match markets and 125+ in-play markets plus market management automation.

The partnership will enable LOOT.BET to significantly increase the scale and scope of the odds and markets it offers to players, while ensuring the highest level of in-play market uptime. The move comes following the signing of a letter of intent to acquire the LOOT.BET brand by emerging esports and iGaming company Intema, for as much as $17.75m.

The partnership is significant for PandaScore, enabling the company to add another tier one betting brand to its growing roster of partners and customers which already includes the likes of Scientific Games, Entain Australia, Betcris and CSGOEmpire.

Flavien GuillocheauCEO at PandaScore, said: LOOT.BET has emerged as one of the leading esports betting operators in markets around the world, so we are delighted to have entered into an agreement to provide it with our state-of-the-art data and odds feed.

This will enable LOOT.BET to offer more odds and markets to its players than ever before, which in turn will allow it to scale and drive significant growth following its acquisition by Intema. This includes the most in-depth in-play markets available across key esports titles.”

Peter ZhalovCEO at LOOT.BET, said: In PandaScore we have a data and odds provider that is at the cutting-edge of the industry, providing a powerful data and odds feed that will allow us to deliver a superior experience to our players as we continue to expand at pace.

Its in-play capabilities are standout; this is a challenging market to offer in the esports arena, but PandaScore has found a way to make it work while also delivering high levels of uptime. This is a great partnership for us and one that will undoubtedly be a huge success.”

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iSoftBet quests to the Orient in Ancients of Korea

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iSoftBet, the leading online games supplier and content aggregator, has journeyed to the extraordinary world of the Far-East in its newest hit, Ancients of Korea.

The supplier’s latest creation takes players on an epic journey through the lands of Korea, with up to 4,096 ways to win, as five great heroes grace the reels, along with iconic symbols from the nation’s past.

Three or more golden coin scatter symbols trigger the free spins mode, with six of them landing awarding a staggering 50 free spins. During the bonus mode, any wilds that land will have multipliers of 2x or 3x attached to them, while they also play an important role as certain symbols will pay as winning combinations, even on non-adjacent reels.

More free spins are added if two or more scatters land on any spin in the free spins mode, where legendary wins await.

Ancients of Korea joins iSoftBet’s growing slot offering, following recent hits Pyramid Pays and the hugely popular sequel in the Hot Spin series, Hot Spin Megaways™. It comes as the supplier’s games collection continues to gain plaudits, following its win at the inaugural CasinoBeats Game Developer Awards in the Game Narrative category.

 

Mark Claxton, Head of Games, iSoftBet, said: “Ancients of Korea allows us to create incredibly immersive, artistic environments in an incredibly interesting part of history. With an engaging theme, huge win potential and a giant number of free spins available, players can enjoy a legendary experience.

“With wild multipliers and high paying symbols paying out on non-adjacent wins, it is a game packed with significant win potential and we’re very excited to release it across our network.”

 

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BLAST Premier donates $5K to gaming and mental health charity Safe In Our World

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Esports tournament organiser BLAST Premier has donated $5000 to Safe In Our World – a video game charity that supports players, teams and organisations in the industry struggling with mental health issues.

The donation will go towards helping the charity continue to deliver some of its impressive work in the field of mental and physical wellbeing for the betterment of the wider gaming and esports industries. 

Professional esports athletes and gamers struggling with mental health issues and burnout has become a common theme over the last few years, with the pressure put on elite esports stars ever increasing and players’ schedules becoming more demanding than ever. 

Safe In Our World was founded in 2019, with a mission to foster positive mental health wellbeing and deliver support not only for players but also developers, publishers, retailers and the other people and teams who drive the video games industry forward.  

Some of the impressive work the charity has undertaken to date includes launching a Level Up Mental Health Programme that empowers companies to priorities its employees mental health, creating a Safer Together Discord channel that offers a safe space to interact with fellow gamers and introducing a Community Manager Mental Health Course, which is free for community managers and public-facing roles within the industry.

The global Counter-Strike tournament organiser set aside fines that were accumulated and deducted from teams during the 2021 Spring Season (February-June) and donated them to a charity of choice. 

Emily Medd, Director of Digital at BLAST, said: “Never has it been so important to protect and educate esports stars and gamers on the significance of physical and mental wellbeing both on and off the server. Safe In Our World are doing brilliant work in this area, helping gamers understand and talk about their mental health freely – we’re delighted to be able to make a contribution to their outstanding work.”

Rosie Taylor, Charity Officer for Safe In Our World, said: “We’re delighted to have BLAST’s support to continue to eliminate the stigma around mental health in games. It’s paramount to have resources available to every player and every employee in the industry, so that everybody feels safe to reach out and learn more about mental health; not only to support themselves but each other as well.”

The charity’s burning ambition is to grow into a default destination for gamers and developers grappling with mental health issues to ask for help, access information, and read about real people in the gaming space who have had their own struggles — and how they have dealt with them. 

BLAST Premier is a worldwide Counter-Strike tournament series that unites all major events, offers opportunities to all regions across the globe and crowns the world champions of CS:GO. Up to 32 teams will take part in the seven BLAST Premier events over the course of 2021 with a combined prize pool of $2,475,000 on the line. 

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