Parimatch – The Ukrainian Military Supporter Banned From Its Home Country for 50 Years

  • Parimatch made clear its support for Ukraine as the war began
  • The firm has suspended Ukrainian operations due to sanctions
  • Zelensky OK’d the ban, claiming Parimatch had Russian ties
  • A petition is the firm’s only hope, with Zelensky reassessing
Ukraine flag
Parimatch has received a ban from Ukraine despite supporting the war effort in the early years of the conflict with Russia. [Image:]

Taking a stand

When Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded neighboring Ukraine on February 24, 2022, he left almost the entire world stunned. The full-scale invasion marked not only the first major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict since 2014, but a serious threat to world peace as the Cold War reared its ugly head once more.

For Ukrainian companies, there was little that could be done but knuckle down and try to survive. One such business was Parimatch, the first online operator to get the green light to launch legal sports betting in Ukraine in 2021. With licenses in multiple European countries, Parimatch could at least continue to make revenue despite the conflict, but the situation had undoubtedly clipped its wings at home.

donated English Premier League advertising space to push anti-war messaging

Once the war began, it seemed immediately clear where Parimatch’s allegiances lay. The Kyiv-founded company announced it would withdraw its Russian franchise, repeatedly condemning the “military aggression of the Russian Federation in Ukraine.” Parimatch even donated English Premier League advertising space to push anti-war messaging, also launching a UAH30m ($986,243) fund to provide direct support to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Given all of this pro-Ukrainian action, it came as a surprise to many that Parimatch received a 50-year ban from its home nation in March this year. The Ukrainian government blamed Parimatch’s ongoing ties to the Russian market, while the gambling firm has repeatedly pled its innocence.

Where did the symbiotic relationship between Parimatch and its home nation all go wrong?

Cast out of Ukraine

In March this year, Parimatch officially announced that it would have to suspend operations in Ukraine after being hit by government sanctions by the National Security and Defence Council (NDSC) of Ukraine. The company published the news in Ukrainian on its official Twitter page, declaring that the company is seeking a way to refund customer cash:

The NSDC sanctioned a total of 287 companies and 120 individuals in the crackdown on Russian-tied firms. They were accused of maintaining Russian business links and therefore operating against Ukraine’s interests in the ongoing conflict. Ultimately, the enforcement action was even signed off by the President of Ukraine and man of the hour since the Russian invasion began, Volodymyr Zelensky.

We are Ukrainian patriots.”

Maxym Liashko, Managing Partner of Energame, Parimatch’s management company, has spoken out on the sanctions. He said: “We are Ukrainian patriots. Our fellow countrymen and countrywomen unequivocally agree with that.” He went on to highlight the support Parimatch has shown for its home nation, asserting that the firm “immediately moved to terminate any remaining legacy business” in Russia once the war began.

Similarly, the Ukraine Gambling Council (UGC), a body that serves to create a dialogue between the government and licensees, also made clear its support for Parimatch. UGC Chair Anton Kuchukhidze argued that despite the investigation findings, Parimatch is anything but a pro-Russian brand. He asserted that the sanctions against the company were likely the result of an error by law enforcement rather than any fault on Parimatch’s part.

Holding out hope

If there is any hope for Parimatch to return to the Ukraine market in the near future, it lies with President Zelensky.

Last month, a petition with more than 25,000 signatures reached President Zelensky’s desk urging him to reconsider the Parimatch ban. The number of signatures made it obligatory for Zelensky to reassess the issue, with the petition reaching the obligatory 25,000 threshold 14 days ahead of its deadline. Parimatch celebrated the milestone on its Twitter, thanking supporters for their “trust” as they “continue to defend the truth:”

Parimatch has argued that it was not contacted by the Security Service (SBU) of Ukraine regarding the threat of a suspension “during the entire period of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine.” The firm also argued that information considered to make the decision was falsified, and has urged Zelensky to address “illegal violations” of the SBU.

the President had ten days to issue his response

From June 8 when he received the petition, the President had ten days to issue his response – a response that has so far failed to materialize. Parimatch’s Ukraine-focused site is still closed and its Twitter has remained vacant since the above post. Its execs have kept shtum on the issue too, so it is unclear whether there is still a chance Zelensky could overturn the ruling.

Regardless, Parimatch will likely survive thanks to its activity in other markets, including the UK through its partnership with BetVictor. But Parimatch had high hopes for the market of its home nation, dreams that may now fall by the wayside. Back in 2021, Liashko insisted that Ukraine could become “a gaming hub for the Eastern Europe region,” helping generate funds for the nation’s budget and “distribute them where they are always needed.”  

Undoubtedly, Liashko and his company will hold out hope that they can form an integral part of Ukraine’s gambling future. But as the days and hours progress since Zelensky received the petition, it is looking more likely that Parimatch’s unfortunate fate has been sealed.

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