Opinion: Gambling Industry Reaction to Ukraine Invasion Shows Togetherness Stronger Than Ever

  • The gambling industry has shown togetherness in the face of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
  • Gambling Industry for Ukraine hopes to raise £250,000 ($328,534) for Choose Love
  • Major sportsbook firms have halted betting on Russian events and left the nation’s market
  • The crisis has had a personal impact on some, particularly Ukrainian firms like EveryMatrix
  • Despite often falling on the wrong side of public opinion, the sector has shown its true colors
Say no to Putin sign
Owain Flanders of VSO News has taken a look at the efforts of the global gambling industry in opposition of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Standing up to a dictator

It’s now been almost two weeks since Vladimir Putin shocked the world by beginning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. His Russian forces have taken cities in the South after a ferocious shelling campaign, and have now encircled the capital of Kyiv with the aim of overthrowing the nation’s democratically elected government.

People around the globe have voiced their disapproval of the atrocious scenes witnessed on TV. Even Russians have begun to protest against the violence, thousands risking lengthy prison sentences to make their case known on the streets of Moscow. Sporting bodies have banned Russian athletes, and governments have imposed punishing sanctions on oligarchs.

a united front against the unprovoked attack on a peaceful nation

Recognizing that it also has a part to play, the global gambling industry has shown a united front against the unprovoked attack on a peaceful nation. Reminiscent of donations provided by certain gambling bodies during the COVID-19 crisis, the sector has positioned itself on the right side of history once more by demonstrating Ukrainian support in a number of ways.

Donations and betting bans

United Nations officials have estimated that up to 4 million people could leave Ukraine if the situation continues to deteriorate. An initiative called the Gambling Industry for Ukraine is planning to help provide for those displaced. Through donations from the sector, it hopes to raise £250,000 ($328,534) for a charity called Choose Love, already reaching around 73% of that goal.

Meanwhile, in the US, multiple sportsbooks have ceased betting on events taking place in Russia. DraftKings, PointsBet, Caesars Entertainment, and FanDuel are all among those to have taken a stand.

Gambling companies with a presence in Russia have decided to take their business elsewhere. Parimatch, a sportsbook operator originally from Kyiv, has announced it is withdrawing its Russian franchise, citing the “military aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.” Similarly, Genius Sports has also ended Russian operations, while Bet365 has given the nation’s customers until March 15 2022 to withdraw funds.

A personal impact

Of course, it’s not necessary to hold a personal affiliation with Ukraine to feel empathy for its people. However, the gambling industry has deep-rooted ties with the country, which boasts many suppliers and operators that do business all across the globe.

Rasmus Sojmark, CEO and founder of SBC and the main proponent behind Gambling Industry for Ukraine, commented on these relationships while urging firms to donate. “Most organizations employ people from the country, or have done business in the region, shared a drink with them and above all have made friends with them,” he explained.

female staff who wanted to leave have done so

CEO of gambling supplier EveryMatrix Ebbe Groes confirmed the truth behind this statement last week. He told Gambling Insider that his company, which is based in Lviv in Western Ukraine, is “staying strong” despite being affected deeply by the invasion. All female staff who wanted to leave have done so, as have the wives, daughters, and sons of the firm’s male employees.

Meanwhile, although now based in Cyprus, Kyiv-founded betting operator Parimatch has repeatedly condemned the attack on its home nation. The firm donated its English Premier League (EPL) advertising space to push anti-war messaging over the weekend. It is also launching a UAH 30m ($986,243) fund to provide direct support to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The industry’s true colors

It would be difficult to disagree with SBC CEO Sojmark when he described the gambling sector as a family. While it might be a competitive industry in which businesses fight tooth and nail to acquire new customers, firms have come together to support the Ukrainian people in the face of Putin’s murderous campaign.

It is an industry so often criticized on both ends of the political spectrum, but the gambling sector has shown its true colors in a time of great need. For the foreseeable future, those colors are yellow and blue.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke