According to local reports, the Bwin sports betting brand could soon disappear from the online gambling landscape of Russia.
Russian subsidiary Bookmaker Ratings announced on Thursday that A&NN Investments is looking to offload the Russian sports betting licence owned by Digital Betting LLC, which operates online in Russia using the Bwin.ru domain through a partnership with GVC Holdings listed in the UK.
While no deal was finalised, a source from Bookmaker Ratings reported that the licence from Digital Betting could be moved to a Qiwi payment processing outfit company, which manages transactions for multiple Russian-licensed bookmakers. This report has been denied by Qiwi.
Some sources claim that The Stars Group (TSG) is in the process of acquiring the licence for Digital Betting. Back in August, TSG CEO Rafi Ashkenazi said the company intended to use its PokerStars Sports brand to apply for a Russian betting licence. PokerStars receives a significant portion of its profits from the digital black market in Russia, but this revenue is threatened by Russia’s efforts to block payments.
Bwin.ru is a joint venture between GVC and A&NN, owned by the Russian billionaire Alexander Mamut, who also owns the digital media business Rambler & Co. But the origin of Bookmaker Ratings suggested that the new owner of the Digital Betting licence would dismantle the partnership from scratch in favour of launching a new product.
Former CEO of Bwin.ru, Dmitry Sergeyev, who jumped ship in May to become CEO of Russian digital bookmaker Parimatch, said he had previously discussed possible collaborations with the UK online betting company Bet365 and the brand Betfair of Flutter Entertainment before deciding on GVC’s Bwin.
The Bwin.ru platform was launched this month two years ago but the company has so far failed to match the success of the Bwin brand in other global betting markets. data shows that Bwin.ru was linked to the 19 approved betting sites in Russia in September with just 210k visits (market leader Fonbet.ru had 13.86 m visits).
Although Mamut initially promised to spend up to € 10 million annually in advertising to ensure that Bwin.ru started off on the right foot, he also expected the company to break even within three years. Reportedly, Bwin.ru produced RUB433 m (US$ 6.8 m) revenue in 2018 but lost RUB145 m due to start-up and marketing costs.
Any other Western operators have yet to pursue Bwin’s entrance into Russia’s controlled online market, while Bet365 was rumoured to be planning its own Russian JV, at least until that odd incident in which Russia discovered 400 kg of cocaine branded with the company’s logo.