Active players: 15.000.000
Currency: Russian ruble (RUB)
Regulated gambling products: Sports betting, horse racing, casino games, lottery, bingo
Operator types: Licensed & unlicensed online bookies, land-based betting shops, land-based casinos in 5 special regions
Designated authority: Unified Gambling Regulator (about to replace the two SROs)
Russia is the largest country in the world, a founding state of the CIS and the leading republic of the USSR from 1922 to 1991. In 1928 all gambling activities were banned in the Russian SFSR. The blanket ban was lifted in 1989, two years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. 20 years later though, in 2009, gambling was prohibited almost everywhere in the country.
Nowadays, Russians are allowed to gamble only in 5 designated areas. However, both land-based and online betting are legal all across the country. Currently, there are more than 20 licensed betting sites in Russia, including Fonbet and 1xStavka. Nonetheless, bettors are in constant search of more wagering options. Therefore, they also place their bets on popular international online bookmakers.
Betting in Russia - 5 things to know
- The legal age of betting at online bookmakers is 18
- Land-based & online betting are legal across the country
- There are 2 SROs for bookies, about to be replaced by a Unified Gambling Regulator
- Players’ winnings are subject to 13% tax when betting on licensed operators
- Both online casino sites and poker sites are illegal
Best betting sites in Russia
The following shortlist consists of the top Russian betting sites. They not only provide the Russian language and accept RUB payments, but also offer very high odds, a wide range of betting markets and untaxed winnings.
Online betting Russia: The gambling law framework
Soon after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, all gambling activities became legal in Russia, including land-based betting. The first act regarding the legality of gambling establishments was enacted in 1998 and resulted in the opening of hundreds of betting shops and casinos all across the nation. Nevertheless, things began to change in 2006, when Vladimir Putin’s government decided that it was the right time to regulate the local gambling landscape. More specifically, on December 29, 2006 the Federal Law No. 244-FZ was passed and came into effect on January 1, 2007. According to its provisions, all casinos closed as of July 1, 2009 and gambling became legal only in 4 special zones in the Altai, Kaliningrad, Krasnodar and Primorsky regions. Moreover, online casinos were also banned; however, betting remained legal throughout the country. Crimea has been the 5th special zone since 2019.
The first steps towards the regulation of online sport betting in Russia were taken on July 21, 2014. That’s when the 2006 Federal Law was amended and the interactive bet system was introduced. Interactive bets can be offered only by bookmakers who meet a number of specific criteria. More specifically, a bookie should have a license issued by the Federal Tax Service, must be a member of a self-regulatory organization of bookmakers (SRO) and be connected to the centralised financial processing system named TSUPIS. SROs were established as the prime entities of regulatory oversight for Russian betting companies. Nowadays, there are two SROs for betting sites in the country, the First SRO and the Bookmakers SRO. Fonbet along with 1xStavka, Liga Stavok and BetCity are the bookies that currently dominate the market.
Imminent changes in the Russian bet market
The State Duma has voted for a new set of regulations, through law 493-FZ of December 30, 2020. The changes are expected to come into force in September 2021, and shall seize the operations of the two SROs. A Unified Gambling Regulator will be overseeing all procedures, under the Ministry of Finance. Operators will have to choose between obtaining either a sports betting or a tote betting license. All interested entities should provide a guarantee of RUB 500 million, as well as proof of assets of RUB 1 billion. Moreover, bookmakers will have to allocate 1.5% of all their accepted bets’ value to sports federations; with a set minimum threshold of RUB 30 million, quarterly.
The upcoming provisions have initially received heavy criticism. Moreover, Bwin.ru was the first operator to officially announce its withdrawal from the Russian betting market. At the same time though, Bet365 ru began providing its services to Russian bettors, as of 26 March 2021. So, opinions are divided around the upcoming changes. On the one hand some say that the two SROs have been providing a fair competition and therefore better services for both players and operators. Whereas others claim that under the new regulator, local sports federations will benefit through taxation. Plus, it will be easier to monitor and clump down on illegal online operators; as well as make sure that all Russian betting websites are offering their services under the exact same legal framework.
Essential information for bettors
The introduction of the interactive bet system in 2014 established a legal basis for online betting in Russia. In 2016 the first Russian sports betting sites, who met the criteria that were mentioned above, made their appearance and the local authorities began their struggle against illegal operators. The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (simply known as Roskomnadzor), started blocking international unlicensed betting sites.
Nevertheless, players that access those sites are not prosecuted. On top of that, there are several bettors who actually bet on non-licensed bookies in order to avoid paying tax on winnings. More specifically, according to the Federal Law No. 354-FZ that came into force on January 1, 2018; those who place their bets on legal bookmakers are subject to a 13% tax on their net winnings. The latest law of December 2020 does not specifically mention any changes to it. Plus, regulations and restrictions are mainly targeting operators, not players, yet again.
Licensed Russian betting sites
Currently there are only 20 betting companies in Russia that operate legally throughout the country. All the legal bookies have an active license issued by the Federal Tax Service and are members of one of the 2 self-regulatory organizations of bookmakers (SROs). More specifically, the licensees that are under the jurisdiction of the First SRO are: Liga Stavok, Winline ru, BetCity, Parimatch.ru, Tennisi, Melbet.ru, 1xStavka, Poolbet and Mostbet.
Furthermore, those that are under the Bookmakers SRO are: Marathonbet.ru, Fonbet ru, Leon.ru, Baltbet, Olimp, Bet365.ru, BetBoom, Zenit.win, GGbet, Pin-Up.ru and Bettery. It is not yet clarified if the new regulator will be reviewing all licensed bookmakers from scratch. Reportedly, it will do so, under the new set of requirements that will be mandatory (i.e. bank guarantee, proof of assets).
Unlicensed betting sites in Russia
Since only a few bookies are licensed in Russia; it comes as no surprise that there are also others that operate without having a local permit. The vast majority of unlicensed sportsbooks are big international brands that accept Russians and manage to operate in the country’s market despite Roskomnadzor’s presence. The most prominent ones are 888sport and Pinnacle.
Nonetheless, there are also some Russian bookmakers that are very popular around the world and haven’t applied for a domestic license. For instance, Betwinner. Bear in mind that you can access the aforementioned bookies directly through their .com webpage, and if it is blocked, through their mirror websites.
Bet Russia: How to deposit at online bookies
As it stands, all licensed betting sites are linked to a centralized payment processing system for online gambling transactions, known as TSUPIS. It is basically an instant banking method designed to process both deposits and withdrawals on legal Russian bookies. Bettors who opt for licensed operators are required to create a TSUPIS account. Each of the two SROs has established a separate TSUPIS system in order to process gambling transactions. Thus, the sportsbooks that are under the First SRO operate on the platform of the First TSUPIS, while those that are under the Bookmakers SRO operate on the platform of the TSUPIS ‘Qiwi Bank’.
However, in December 2020, along with the introduction of the new law; the Central Bank fined (RUB 11 million) the bank which is connected to the Qiwi Group and restricted its transactions. This came along with the news that a new credit organization will be put in place; acting as a medium for the financing of all online gambling activities in Russia - including sports betting. Practically, this shall end the two TSUPIS as we know them.
Nevertheless, players who place their bets on popular international bookmakers are more familiar with e-wallets, like Moneta, WebMoney and YooMoney. So, the top betting sites in Russia, such as Bet365 and 888sport, accept deposits and withdrawals via various e-wallets. WebMoney for instance is available on 888sport.
The future of online betting in Russia
Even if the Russian government believes that the country’s online betting market is well-regulated, the bitter truth is that it isn’t. The new system that will replace the two SROs remains to be seen in practice. Players are still taxed on their winnings when betting on licensed bookies; so, most of them prefer to place their bets on unlicensed operators.
The top bookmakers in Russia are actually big international brands and despite the impending arrival of the new regulator; things don’t seem to be getting better for them. Thus, the Russia betting environment, especially towards international operators, is still in need of a more relaxed set of rules.
Complete list of sport betting sites in Russia
After thoroughly analyzing the domestic betting market; we now list all available bookies that offer their services to local bettors. There are many decent options; so, just pick the one that suits you best.
Yes, all forms of online gambling in Russia, including sports betting, are absolutely legal; since the establishment of the Federal Law No. 244-FZ on January 1, 2007. Moreover, online betting is also considered regulated as of July 21, 2014; when the Law was amended and the interactive bet system was officially introduced.
Among the current licensees that operate in the country, Bet365 is the only popular international brand that has been granted a local license. It operates legally under the jurisdiction of the Bookmakers SRO as of March 26, 2021.
Yes, there are several international online bookmakers that accept Russian bettors and cater to their needs by offering their websites translated in Russian. Nevertheless, the most popular ones are 888sport, Pinnacle and Evobet.
Being able to fund your account by using your local currency when betting online is very important. Therefore, there are many offshore bookies that allow you to make RUB deposits. The most prominent ones though are Pinnacle, Campobet and Librabet.
Russia is known for its very cold winters. So, it comes as no surprise that winter sports, such as ice hockey and skiing, are among the most popular sports in Russia for betting. Basketball along with martial arts are also very popular among Russian bettors; however football is the top.
No, it is not. More specifically, Betfair Russia has taken the decision to suspend its operations in the country from May 5, 2020. However, with the upcoming changes being around the corner, it might rethink its stance and eventually apply for a local license.
No, it is not. 888 ru was a domestic brand which used to operate under the jurisdiction of the First SRO. However, it has ceased its operations since September 30, 2021. On the contrary, 888sport is a popular international sportsbook that accepts local bettors and offers them a website which is optimized in Russian.