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Russia: How gambling activities are regulated, or where to drive your traffic?

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Russian authorities are putting a high priority on regulation of gambling activities. When the TSUPIS (Center for Taking Interactive Bets) system was introduced in Russia, no one really believed that players would start passing identification and follow new payment rules. Several years have passed, the TSUPIS market has grown, and so have the volumes of payments passing through it. It is quite obvious that money needs government regulation.

More about regulation of gambling activities

It didn’t take long for the federal law No. 493-FZ of 30 December 2020 “On the Unified Gambling Regulator” to be introduced. The law provides for the creation of a state body to control and monitor activities of gambling companies.

In mid-December, payment service providers, which probably worked with offshore gambling-related businesses, began to receive orders from the Central Bank of Russia to restrict cross-border operations. The largest provider affected at the end of 2020 was QIWI, also known as the second TSUPIS. The same order was sent to YooMoney in January 2021. Rumours about problems with Visa card transactions on the Russian market started circulating in Telegram channels.

In mid-January 2021, The Bell conducted an investigation and found out that Russian users who want to gamble in online casinos or place bets with illegal bookmakers can pay only with bitcoins. All payment methods seem to be available, but if a new user tries to make a deposit, an error message saying “This payment method is not available in your region” will appear. 

gambling betting

The Americans The Chinese, as always, have saved everyone. Some businesses have connected to Chinese payments service providers and now accept all types of payments. Experienced gamblers, however, say that there is a loophole in this deposit method—disabled 3D Secure resulting in chargebacks. Users can make a deposit, gamble, and then call their bank and say that they did not make the payment and ask for a refund. The bank is obliged to refund the payment.

What is very sad is that e-commerce was also affected by this fight against gambling-related cross-border transactions. Many law-abiding users, for example, now can’t use YooMoney or Qiwi to pay for vitamins or some other goodies on Iherb or AliExpress.

Expert opinion, or how is Russian gambling doing?

Alex Miller, 3snet analyst

The way 2021 started suggests that legal and regulatory frameworks will embrace two spheres.

First, all transactions of citizens will be carefully analyzed and checked. Not only possible means of obtaining illegal (i.e., nontaxable) income but also all deposits and winnings are set to come under control. It sounds like concern for safety but at the same time serves as a reminder—all your honestly earned money will be yours only after you pay all taxes.

Secondly, gambling businesses will come under more control, new restrictions will be introduced. Creation of the Unified Gambling Regulator is an excellent example. Both casinos and even legal bookmakers will have little choice but to comply with all requirements and get less profit. It, however, was quite predictable. In many developed countries, everything related to the gambling industry is strictly regulated: payments, taxes, payment methods, advertising. Russia should have started following this path one day. Why not now?

How long will the pause in payments last?

I think agreement will be reached already this spring, restrictions imposed on Qiwi and YooMoney will be lifted even prior to the announced deadline of six months as “the company’s activity has been brought in line with the requirements of the regulator…”. Gambling will be playing by new rules. Details of the agreement might vary, but the main point is already clear: all transactions will come under control, and the size of the commission on transactions will increase. Many offshore businesses will have to leave the Russian market or close. The process is already under way. Maybe it’s for the best? Too many companies without history, budgets, and any guarantees have appeared in the last couple of years. Trustworthy companies guaranteeing fulfillment of obligations to all parties involved—players, affiliates, the state budget in the form of taxes—should remain.

What should affiliates do in 2021? Where to drive traffic?

There’s no use waiting for things to return to normal on their own. Russian authorities aim to strictly regulate all gambling and betting activities in the country and won’t loosen their control. The first thing that comes to mind is  choosing “another way” and opting for a tricky grey-hat approach. Hold on. Think one or better two steps ahead!

Step 1. Reorient!

If you work only with the Russian language, try switching to other Russian-speaking countries with their own currencies and local payment systems. If your possibilities are wider, reorient your campaigns to other markets where all legal issues regarding advertising and payments are already settled, gambling activities are regulated, and a sudden ban can’t ruin your efforts. And of course, we shouldn’t leave out legal Russian bookmakers. They are on the rise! Join!

Choose your offers and start driving traffic straight away:

The faster the better. The market can’t host everyone. The early bird gets the worm.

Step 2. Legalize your business!

It is getting more risky to receive payouts to your gambling account. Work with CPA networks! I’d recommend Russian affiliates to think about registering as self-employed or becoming an individual entrepreneur.

How are gambling activities regulated in Russia?

Facts and laws are listed in reverse chronological order.

On 17 January 2021, new rules regulating targeted allocations from Russian bookmakers came into force.

The resolution No. 2420 adopted by the Russian government on 31 December introduces amendments to the rules which regulate the way targeted allocations are calculated. Bookmakers decide which events they will be accepting bets on and sign agreements with corresponding sports leagues, clubs, and other sports bodies. The size of targeted allocations is calculated based on the total number of bets accepted by a bookmaker during a fiscal quarter and amounts to 1.5% of each bet.

Experts have immediately warned of negative consequences for legal betting in Russia. The increase in the mandatory contributions might, for example, force many bookmakers to limit all the variety of sports they accept bets on to only a few most popular types.

On 12 January 2021, Russia’s Central Bank ordered the YooMoney electronic payment service (formerly known as Yandex.Money) to restrict cross-border operations. The Central Bank audited YooMoney and then placed restrictions on transactions from individuals to non-resident companies and vice versa. These restrictions affected Russian gambling providers too.

On 10 January 2021, amendments to the law “On counteraction to legalization (laundering) of criminal proceeds and to terrorist financing”, which provide for stricter control over cash flow and non-cash transactions exceeding 600,000 rubles, came into force.

On 6 January 2021, Russia’s Federal Taxation Service started tracking data on e-wallets of Russians. The Central Bank has determined how data on opened and closed e-wallets will be transferred to the Federal Taxation Service. This decision will affect WebMoney, Qiwi, YooMoney, and other payment services.

On 30 December 2020, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that creates the Unified Gambling Regulator.

In the near future, the Ministry of Finance is expected to create a new regulatory body to monitor activity of all legal bookmakers in the country. Private Centers for Taking Interactive Bets (known as TSUPIS) will be closed, and a Unified Center for Taking Bets, which will operate under the Unified Gambling Regulator, will be created instead. The Unified Center will be collecting information about all bets. This information will be used to calculate the size of mandatory contributions which bookmakers have to make to local sports bodies. The Unified Gambling Regulator and the Unified Center for Taking Bets will be controlled by the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy, and the Ministry of Sports. 

On 15 December 2020, the VulkanBET bookmaker announced its decision to leave the Russian market. The decision followed news about creation of a Unified Gambling Regulator and an increase in bookmakers’ mandatory contributions. According to the company’s representative, VulkanBET wants to focus on markets which offer more favorable conditions to betting businesses.

On 7 December 2020, Russia’s Central Bank imposed restrictions on some operations of the QIWI Bank: payments to foreign trading companies and transfers of funds to prepaid cards of corporate clients. The decision affected various gambling and gaming platforms in Russia.

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