Russia, the largest country in the world is famous for its vast natural resources, thinkers, and writers such as Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, but also for outstanding results in a high number of sporting disciplines. From dominating the Olympics for decades, having a very strong hockey team and all the way to reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup they hosted, Russia is definitely no stranger to sports performance. With this rich background, it comes as small wonder that sports betting sites in Russia are exceedingly popular with the local punters. The very solid middle class in Russia is also favorable for pastimes such as online betting. Unfortunately, the best betting sites in Russia hit a wall when it comes to regulations. The over-regulated betting landscape inside the country makes it difficult for the football betting sites in Russia to function in complete compliance. All these contributed to a massive interest in unlicensed online bookmakers. With even more legislative changes on the way, it’s as good a time as ever to take a closer look at how online betting looks like in Russia.
Gambling in all forms was banned in the Soviet Union since 1928, however, towards the last years of the Perestroika – around 1988 – the grip on gambling started to loosen bit by bit. Slot machines were the first to be allowed in certain regions and in 1989 betting and gambling became legal across the country. As a result, there were over 50 casinos and hundreds of betting shops operating in Moscow alone in 2002. And with the rise of online sports betting in Russia taking place in the same period, the phenomenon grew quickly.
Of course, even when talking about sports betting Russia couldn’t let go of her historical tight control and all the commotion and money from bookmakers in Russia started to draw attention. As a result, in 2006 the authorities passed the Federal Law of 29 December 29, 2006, of N 244-FZ to regulate the gambling landscape and try to control the phenomenon. This put an end to the age-old question “ Is sports betting legal in Russia?” with the answer being a definite yes. However, as with most things related to the former Soviet giant, things are not as straightforward as many would hope.
In 2009 the government started to restrict land-based betting and gambling. Gradually, betting shops were closed across the country and they allowed betting and gambling only in 6 regions – Primorye, Krasnaya Polyana, Azov-City, Yantarnaya, Siberian Coin and Crimea.
Getting back to the online betting landscape, there are currently 19 licensed operators in the country. Among the top bookmakers in Russia, 888ru, bwin.ru, 1xBet or Winline are some of the most famous internationally. To obtain a license, betting operators in Russia have to go through a series of checks like:
In order to stand out from the crowd, betting sites in Russia need to be able to deliver high odds on a large number of sports and events. Those odds combined with fast payouts and a diverse offer of payment options will make the average Russian punter consider them as a proper choice for betting. Of course, to avoid any currency exchange fees Russian bookmakers should always offer RUB currency as well as the website and customer support available in Russian.
The local authorities have taken serious steps towards preventing Russian punters from accessing offshore Russian bookmakers. Besides establishing the Roskomnadzor to identify and block any website operating inside the country without a license, ISPs are also forced to place DNS blocks. Furthermore, they even went after VPN providers to try and force them to block the top Russian bookmakers that operated without a license. Luckily enough, it looks like the VPN providers were harder to convince than the ISPs in Russia. So, even if the website is blocked by the ISP you still can access the bookies and you’re not risking anything since all the efforts are focused on the Russian betting companies and not the punters.
The Russian sports betting sites deliver a long list of local payment options. However, despite this diversity, the authorities put together a blacklist with the companies identified for operating in Russia without a license. So, the local banks are forced to block any payments to and from these companies. However, as long as you are playing at Russian betting sites you will be able to choose from Qiwi, Yandex, WebMoney and Payeer as local payment options. All of them have their ups and downs, however, Qiwi takes the first spot since it also supports withdrawals and has a widespread network in Russia.
Of course, international payment options like Visa, MasterCard, Skrill or Neteller are also accessible at Russian betting sites. However, taking into consideration the blacklist that’s circulating, there’s a big chance you won’t be able to use them at the unlicensed ones.
Betfair was in advanced negotiations with the same guys that finally partnered with Bwin for a Russian license. At the moment, Betfair is not available in the country, however, rumour has it that Bwin could pull out of the Russian market leaving the license open. That could bring Betfair back on track for a Russian license, despite competition from bet365. With Betfair in the books, even Russia’s best bookmaker would have serious reasons for concern.
In the meantime, if you want to enjoy the services of online betting exchanges, you can use one of the VPNs that were not tamed by the Russian government. We’ll be the first ones to let you know if Betfair makes a move in the near future.
If you are betting at bookmakers that applied for a license in Russia, the Roskomnadzor looks like the best point of contact. Otherwise, the licensing authorities of European-licensed bookies are the ones to address for a complaint regarding their licensees – MGA, UKGC. You can always contact us in case you reach any kind of trouble with a bookmaker we recommend on this page. We’ll make sure to help you reach them and sort everything.