The chief executive of a leading sports book in Russia believes that once the ban on betting on UFA matches goes into effect, the country’s top bookmakers will be forced to re-evaluate their business models. “I believe if you ask me if I will still cover UFA, I would say no. Even if my workers are Chechens, they would not go on strike”, says Aleksandr Korolev.
The head of the Association of National Bookkeepers in Russia, Valeriy Melnikov, told journalists on 4 September that most bookies had already suspended operations for the coming season. “The government decided to step in and protect the rights of football fans to choose their matches. This means all matches involving Russian teams will have to be listed under the UFA category”, he explained.
UFA is the term used for matches taking place outside Russia. The ban will affect all international sportbooks that deal with UFA matches and all those who offer services for betting on these matches. The association of national sportbooks is due to hold a meeting to discuss the situation during the month of October.
Korolev says that UFA is not an independent governing body, but is actually an associate association of national sportbooks. In other words, all sportbooks belong to the association, which represents the interests of its members. The ban affects all member associations of UFA. This means that all sportbooks which operate with an active membership in the association are considered to be acting as money makers for the Russian football league.
The Association of National Bookkeepers is an independent professional body which does not have an equivalent body for international football matches. The ban affects only a small sector of the Russian bookkeeping market. Most of the outlets of UFA do not operate within the framework of an association. This means that under no circumstances would they be forced to pay out money to their members for matches which they are unable to cover. However, under UFA rules any money paid out by sportbooks in advance of a match must be made directly by the association to its members.
This measure was imposed because many sportbooks had either not complied with UFA regulations or had tried to circumvent the laws by operating outside the law. Many countries have taken action against cheating sportbooks and the association is looking to do the same. Russia has not yet confirmed whether it plans to reintroduce the law. Many sportbooks have already closed down and there may be a limit to how many can operate at one time. This could hinder the functioning of local sportbooks, particularly in smaller cities where few bookies have set up shop.