Russian legislation is tightening the rules regarding bookmakers, says Maria Lepschikova, a lawyer who has been consulting gambling industry representatives for many years. However, this does not mean that 2018 will bring only new difficulties in business: there will also be changes for the better. Maria told the Betting Trends Forum press service about Russian laws on gambling business, recently adopted bills and expected innovations of 2018.
Interviewer: Betting Trends Forum (BTF)
Speaker: Maria Lepschikova (M.L.)
BTF: Let's start with a general question: how would you characterize the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation in relation to gambling? Are our laws on gambling really harsh and changeful?
M.L.: Yes, indeed, in the past 12-13 years, legislation of the Russian Federation regulating gambling business is constantly undergoing changes. And in the vast majority of cases, these changes are aimed at tightening regulation. In some years, the legislative reform was carried out twice.
I have repeatedly said that our legislation in the field of gambling is extremely lacking in stability. In the absence of stability in the industry legislation, it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to calculate the risks of investing in gambling in Russian Federation.
Of course, due to the clear annual tendency to stricken the rules of gambling business, our legislation in this area can be called tough, especially in comparison with the situation about 15 years ago. However, there are many countries in the world that adhere to a more radical approach: they simply ban gambling. In Russia, we are not talking about a complete ban on gambling right now. But the state clearly seeks to make it less accessible to potential consumers.
BTF: Please describe the draft law that prohibits betting on non-sports events: what are the consequences of such a law for bookmakers? How likely is its adoption in the near future?
M.L.: Actually, there are several bills on the "ban on non-sports betting". Their common idea is to prohibit bets on the outcomes of events occurring outside the framework of sports competitions: the so-called non-sports events.
The probability of adopting one of these bills in 2018 is high. However, earlier we believed that the probability of adopting a rule of law prohibiting non-sports bets was high in 2017. In any case, just like with the answer to the first question, it is necessary to note the poor predictability of the situation.
For bookmakers, such a law will have consequences in the form of impossibility of using a part of the currently operating bookmaker products, bookmaker lines. In other words, a significant reduction in the volume of "raw materials for work", a significant reduction in diversity and polyvariety of betting services and as a consequence – possible narrowing of the market.
BTF: You call bookmakers' target allocations for Russian sports "the cornerstone of BS operation in Russia". Why are they so important?
M.L.: The "importance" of these target allocations is promoted by the state. Based on the rhetoric of government authorities of the Russian Federation representatives, the state expects that every bookmaker will pay target allocations for sports. Let me remind you – it is only about allocations for Russian sports, not for financing sports anywhere in the world.
At Betting Trends Forum, I plan to talk about the kinds of formal means government agencies use to push bookmakers to make agreements on target allocations.
BTF: The law on bookmakers’ allocations was signed a year ago. How do you think it influenced the industry during this time?
M.L.: Given the stated above strictness of Russian legislation in the field of gambling, state bodies have extensive powers to inspect the activity of bookmakers. State bodies now also have a new graduation of bookmakers on the principle of pays/does not pay target allocations.
I should note that changes in the law that happed a year ago have expanded individual advertising opportunities for bookmakers. A part of BSs confidently uses these innovations in their marketing.
BTF: Today, sports and gambling betting is actively developing on the Internet. Are new bills concerning online betting and gambling expected in 2018?
M.L.: Bookmakers legally working in Russia in the Internet segment are waiting for the adoption (possibly in the summer of 2018) of a bill excluding the so-called double identification. Now bookmakers must personally see the identification document of a gambler before giving them access to the bookmaker's website. The specified norm is fulfilled mainly due to the developed network of land-based betting shop systems. However, there are bookmakers oriented to work online, who do not have a developed betting shops network of across Russian cities. And a gambler is unlikely to go from Siberia, the Far East and even from the regions of Central Russia, for example, to Moscow in order to show their passport.
The bill suggests that bookmakers will be able to delegate their responsibility for identification (matching a person with their passport).
BTF: You already have experience of participating in Betting Trends Forum as a speaker. How was this experience useful for you? What do you expect from the 2018 conference?
M.L.: I love Betting Trends Forum. First of all, I just enjoy taking part in this event. The conference creates comfortable conditions for communicating, exchanging opinions and obtaining the maximum amount of information about the current topical issues of the industry. Also, the conference gives an opportunity to see a large number of people in one day, where meeting them outside the conference would take weeks. I'm expecting the same from the conference in 2018!
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