Today, Russia is a very different place from what it was 30 or even 20 years ago. At the time, it would have been inconceivable to think that just a few decades after the fall of the Soviet Union that people would be placing bets and playing slot machine games on their mobile phones.
However, as everyone knows, the story of upwards Russian growth and development recently stalled this spring when Russia made the decision to invade Ukraine. This action has continued through the summer, and it does not appear to be winding down any time soon. So, has the war in Ukraine impacted the online gambling industry?
Online casinos in Russia before the war
Prior to the war in Ukraine, the online gambling industry in Russia was virtually indistinguishable from the industry in other parts of Europe and Asia. The online gambling and sports betting industry in Russia was always popular but it surged in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic as many casinos around the country either were forced to close or operate under restricted hours.
As a result of the pandemic, millions of people made the transition to online gambling and started to realize that it was not dissimilar from gambling in person at brick-and-mortar establishments. The industry began to grow, and hundreds of new online casinos were launched to meet the increased consumer demand.
The best online casinos in Russia offer gaming in multiple languages – including Russian of course! – and have extensive game libraries, helpful customer service operators and a range of different payment methods.
Gaming companies on the front lines
There seems to be broad support for Ukraine across the tech and gaming development industry, as can be seen by the legions of hackers who are breaking into Russia’s top public and private entities. Early on in the war, Rasmus Sojmark, the CEO of SBC held a fundraiser for the people of Ukraine and raised a significant amount of money for Ukrainian relief.
However, the war has also had negative impacts on the industry and caused supply chain disruptions in part due to the fact that Russia has been sanctioned by tech services and platforms.
One of the most notable expressions of the impact the war has had on the industry was when IGT, one of the biggest gaming equipment producers in the industry, announced to investors that they were feeling the hit due to the war in Ukraine, Omicron and labor shortages. IGT warned that if the war continues, the industry could face even more losses and may need to rethink its strategies.
The impact of sanctions on Russian gamblers
Another aspect of the war is the fact that nearly every country around the world has placed at least some sort of sanction on Russia and the economy is hurting. Now, EU countries are even choosing to ration their gas usage as much of their imported energy comes from Russia.
The results of the sanctions have been mixed with some complaining that the sanctions only hit the normal people in Russia without impacting the oligarchs and ruling classes. That being said, most Russia oligarchs have also faced personal sanctions, and some have been assassinated along with their families.
At the end of the day, the Russian economy certainly has not been improved by the war and the result is that the average consumer in Russia has less disposable income to spend on gambling. While it is still possible to gamble in very small amounts, the number of people who can afford to regularly gamble is declining in Russia.
The future of online gambling in Russia
It is currently unclear what the future of online gambling and betting in Russia will look like. As long as the war in Ukraine continues, it is likely that Russia will be internationally isolated and sanctioned, which will lead to a steady decline in GDP.
Not only will such an economic decline make Russia a less attractive market for game development and casino companies, it also means that the average Russian gambler will have less and less money to gamble with.
On the other hand, if Russia were to withdraw from Ukraine and take steps towards building peace, then it is possible that the sanctions could be lifted, and the industry might bounce back. The future of the online gambling industry in Russia is arguably fully dependent on what happens next in Ukraine – and that is truly anyone’s guess.