According to the former CEO of the operator, Bwin’s Russian-licensed sports betting site has never had a chance at success.
Former Bwin.ru CEO Dmitry Sergeyev recently posted a post-mortem of his tenure with the company on his personal telegram page, spurred on by Facebook’s reminder that it is three years since Bwin ‘s parent GVC Holdings announced its joint venture with Russian-licensed bookmaker Digital Betting LLC.
Sergeyev (pictured), who joined betting operator Parimatch last year and was appointed CEO of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) division of the company last month, noted that Bwin.ru had to delay the launch of the site until November 2017.
Sergeyev said the delay was due in part to GVC being distracted by the ongoing merger of the brands Bwin.party and Sergeyev had “serious fears” that GVC was having cold feet about entering the Russian market. Sergeyev said that his press conference in June 2017 announcing Bwin.ru was intended to ensure GVC “wouldn’t change their minds.”
Despite previous promises of a large marketing budget, Sergeyev said Bwin.ru had “lived without marketing investments” and had barely generated enough revenue to reach its employee payroll. This was largely due to the owner of Digital Betting, Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut, opting to renew a marketing deal between his prominent Championat digital sports portal and Russian bookmaker Fonbet, a decision which left Bwin.ru more or less alone.
Despite these hurdles, Sergeyev said after the 2018 FIFA World Cup the site “almost reached self-sufficiency” thanks to tireless public relations efforts and the help of a few key affiliate marketers. But Sergeyev, who said that Bwin.ru never kept more than 0.25 percent of Russia’s online betting market, saw the writing on the wall and de-camped in May 2019 for Parimatch.
Mamut officially washed his hands of Bwin.ru in February, passing ownership to a mysterious Cyprus-based business known as Nirevia Holdings Ltd. Sergeyev’s Telegram post reported that Bwin.ru was planning a new promotional campaign to revive the brand and Sergeyev said he wished the new owners well.
SimilarWeb data for the month of May show Bwin.ru recorded a mere 68k site visits, better than just three Russian-licensed bookmakers (one of whom, 888.ru, suspended its operations after COVID-19 cancelled most major sporting events). Fonbet topped the May traffic list with visits of nearly 4.8 m.
No other Western business has launched a Russian-licensed operation so far, while PokerStars reported last August that it was preparing to apply for a local licence. Online betting giant Bet365 has been rumoured to be planning its own Russian joint venture, but there has been no official indication to date that such reports have been anything but talk.