Ilya Machavariani: Best international practices a priority for CIS region

Best international practices are high on the agenda for the CIS countries looking to legalise sports betting, according to Ilya Machavariani, head of Russian and CIS gambling and gaming practice at Dentons.

Speaking as part of the ‘CIS & the Balkans – The next big thing?’ panel on day two of the SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital, Machavariani gave an overview of the ongoing developments in the CIS region.

He explained: “I think that maybe the main point I would like to tell you and that I would like to discuss is that, I have a feeling that generally CIS has started to open up and I mean that Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Russia; all of these countries are trying to somehow work on their regulations, or already existing ones, and introduce some new ones.

“And the main thing about these countries is that I see, as a lawyer at least, that the regulators and people who are responsible for these new laws are really looking towards the best international practices. At least from my point of view.

“For instance, if we look at Ukraine here, I think it’s really good that Ukraine is trying to be open to the international community and everybody will notice that because the Ukrainian legislation, which basically has happened a couple of month ago, was covered in each and every international igaming magazine and igaming media.”

Machavariani was joined on the panel by Maxim Afanasyev, CPO of Ligastavok, Minja Bolesnikov, CEO of MaxBet, and Irakli Davarashvili, CMO of Adjarabet, with Lasha Machavariani, CEO/founder of Setanta Sports Media, taking the moderating reigns.

As the CIS region opens up further, Ilya Machavariani stated that now is the time for international operators to switch their attention to the region. He added: “I think that today, and coming maybe a couple of years in the future, is the right moment for everyone to move into this direction and to look at the CIS.”

The conversation soon turned to the Russian market, and the swift implementation of gambling laws.

“Things happen very fast in Russia, especially when it comes to changing the law,” Afanasyev noted.

“Just one month ago a new law was signed that regulates bookmakers activity and on 1 October it will come into force, so what is changing is that starting from October we will only be able to accept bets on official sports events.”

Under the legislation, legal operators will have to ditch novelty markets, such as the Eurovision song contest and the Oscars. However the ‘official sports’ ruling will not affect esports. Afanasyev offered an optimistic outlook for the Ukrainian market, which recently made sweeping changes in terms of gambling legislation.

He said: “Well I would say that if you look at the overall CIS and post Soviet area, we would put Ukraine as market number two after Russia in terms of the sizes, so it’s definitely an interesting piece of cake.

“And I would assume that a lot of operators from all over the world are looking toward entering the market. But I think that what is missing a little right now is the 100 per cent clarity on how things will work out and it will take some time before there will be some movements.

“For us, I would say that we’re in a position of looking into this market and possible entry in the mid-term, so it’s not going to be an immediate move tomorrow lets say, but it’s definitely on our list.”

Echoing those sentiments was Davarashvili, who commented that Adjarabet would be looking to expand out of Georgia and Armenia, stating that “I think that Ukraine will also be interesting”.

As the discussion neared a conclusion, Bolesnikov picked up the Ukraine-focused conversation: “We are closely monitoring several different fields of potential activity, first one is that obviously in the Balkans we are going to finish the story there, but this does mean that if a proper chance arises we will not be attacking it,” he said.

“Obviously we were already approached to do something in Ukraine, we were offered an introduction to the market, partnerships, etc. But similarly to Maxim, we are going to be cautious and we are going to be careful in that segment.”

SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital is a FREE to attend virtual conference and exhibition running from 8-11 September. To register for your free ticket or find out more please visit –

SBC is staging its first ever event fully dedicated to the CIS region on 4-5 November 2020. SBC Digital Summit CIS, organised in association with Sports Media Holding, will feature a virtual conference with 75 high-level speakers, an interactive product display area, and a programme of networking roundtables. 

Click here to register for your free pass for SBC Digital Summit CIS.

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