Sergei Portnov: "Ukraine has great potential in the sportsbook industry"

In an exclusive interview, the general director of the holding Pari-Match, Sergei Portnov, shared his expectations of the possible legalization of gambling in Ukraine.

Sergei Portnov: "Ukraine has great potential in the sportsbook industry"

- In the context of the upcoming Gaming Congress of Ukraine, tell us how interesting the market of Ukraine and Eastern Europe in general is for you and what are its main advantages.

- Twenty years ago we started to lead ouractivity in Ukraine, so for us this market is at the highest priority, and accordingly in the long term, taking into account the legalization, we want to have top positions here. Now the country is in a state of protracted crisis, but in a few years everything will change and I think Ukraine will become the second market after Russia.

- What will Pari-Match present at the congress?

- The main purpose of the presence of "Pari-Match" onCongress - to take an active part in the discussion of the theme of the legalization of the bookmaker business in Ukraine. We want to inform the public and representatives of state structures that the legalization of bookmaking is necessary and that the state will only benefit if it creates a legal field for gambling.

- Gambling business, which is more or less calmI felt in Ukraine until the middle of the 2000s and for the most part was in the shadows, and then completely got under the ban, the authorities of the country now intend to literally pull out of the cellars and whitewash, imposing the appropriate legislation. How important is this step, in particular, for bookmakers?

"Nobody wants to work on bird rights." Business in the shade is not predictable, it can not be regulated. Any self-respecting company wants to work in stable, predictable conditions. Today they are not in Ukraine. Therefore, we make efforts to ensure that such conditions were created, taking into account the interests of bookmakers, including, not only the interests of the state.

- Legalization of gambling will simplify the life of profile companies and will open additional opportunities? Or will it not give rise to special changes and serious reforms?

- The first time of rapid reforms should not be expected,because the market does not react so quickly. In Ukraine, the crisis, for this reason, all sectors have slowed down their development and are on standby. But definitely - the adoption of legislation in our sphere will give impetus to operators ready to enter the market, but at first they will not radically reform it and invest insane funds. This will all come gradually, in harmony with how the whole country will prosper and recover from recent events.

- In the future law of Ukraine on legalization of gamblingbusiness, an online item will be registered as a separate line, which will accordingly regulate the gambling industry on the Internet. Have you already encountered similar laws? What are the key mistakes, from the point of view of representatives of the gambling business, can allow the authorities to draft such bills?

- The entire European market is settled, plus or minusfrom the point of view of offline and online. Also good regulation in Belarus, where it is allowed online with an acceptable tax percentage. That is, online regulation is not new to the bookmaker business. If you prescribe the law only for offline, it means online completely left in the shadows.

A key mistake on the part of the state will be,If it does not take into account the realities of the market and will begin to reinvent the wheel. The desire of the authorities to "invent the wheel" will lead to the fact that the business will go further into the shadows, because in this law it is impossible to invent something new - at least 50 leading countries have already done this for us. You need to choose the best, some kind of hybrid model, taking into account the Ukrainian mentality. It is unacceptable if taxes from other industries (tobacco, alcohol) will be introduced into the betting or gambling business as a whole. There are fears that people who do not understand how this industry works will begin to impose their tax models. This is the greatest risk.

- What, in your opinion, is acceptable taxation for the gambling business, which allows not only to earn the country, but also to grow and develop themselves to businessmen?

- I think that an acceptable fixed fee for a license can be in the amount of 100 thousand dollars a year. The percentage of gaming profit is about 5-10%.

- An alternative to the bookmaker is the betting exchange. What is the fundamental difference and what is a more profitable business?

- Today, the rate exchange is a synonym for the officeBetfair. Such associations come to mind when you hear this phrase. Betfair is an English company, which in 1999 organized the first exchange. But this product has limitations on the disclosure of its potential, such exchanges are not for all players. There are restrictions on the possibilities of bets: you can not make express. No wonder that Betfair within its stock exchange opened a bookmaker's office. They understand that the traditional BC has a different specifics and a number of differences, it is clearer and easier for players. In fact, Betfair combined what should not be combined - they made both the stock exchange and the bookmaker in one site. And now there is information that they are planning to merge with the Paddy Power BC.

The difference between a bookmaker and an exchangerates in that there are no bookmakers on the stock exchange, and the players themselves give their coefficients. This market is liquid, they have taken their niche, but they never jump above their heads, and to think that ultimately they monopolize the market or somehow reconquer it, is doubtful. Yes, they will keep their "piece of cake" and will be content with it.

- Now bookmakers are primarily associatedwith football - the most popular sport in the world. Does this concept match what is happening inside the bookmaker business and is football really the most financially profitable and interesting sport?

- The reason for the success of football is that in ourcountries it is broadcast almost everywhere. In Europe it is also the main sport. And any form of media - television, news portal - will always be the first to cover football. He deeply penetrated into our mentality, socially it is sport number 1. These are the established standards. Bookmakers simply follow this trend. In fact, bookmakers play a key role in the development of other sports. Thanks to live betting today, a lot of attention to basketball, handball, volleyball. Previously, few people were interested in what teams exist and according to what rules they play. Today, football takes only 20% of all live betting. Basketball and then more. That is, football is on equal terms with basketball, volleyball, handball. For new players, always sports No. 1 will be football. And when a person puts it professionally, for him football is one of the sports that is perceived on an equal footing with others - with hockey, basketball, tennis.

Corruption in football is a painful topic both in thethe sport, and among its investors. Over the past year, not only in Ukraine, but also in almost all countries of Eastern Europe, scandals, contract matches, etc., regularly appeared, etc. How do bookmakers take to respond to such situations? Is it possible to somehow fence and insure themselves against this, because even a person who is not particularly knowledgeable in the rates understands that first and foremost scammers are trying to "heat up" the office?

- Contractual matches are a big problem. About this you can write a book. Bookmakers, on the one hand, develop sports, on the other - tempt people who have exits to the players, manipulate the result. Looking at the pattern of bets, it is possible to predict with a high degree of probability whether the player places a contractual match or not. In 9 out of 10 cases we predict correctly. In such cases, we do not even make a return, we calculate the rate, pay and close the account. A man again takes and opens an account for his wife, friends. It's hard to fight them. While we did not come up with strong tools, how to prevent the game from suspicious matches. You can not insure yourself. Because it's a sport, a lot of athletes are connected with this, hundreds of thousands. With this phenomenon, FIFA, the whole world, is fighting, and we are fighting.

- How do you see the development of gambling and bookmaking in particular in Ukraine in the next 10 years?

"Let's not run so far." But I think that in 10 years in Ukraine will be what is in England today. There is virtually eradicated cache, all on cards, securely, via the Internet. This social system in Britain is well structured in all aspects: banking, gambling and others - everything is developed. When we get to that point, we will have a lot to change, for example, the service will improve. While the CIS countries are very far from what is happening in the West. Take, for example, for comparison, such data: in England, 8 out of 10 people have Internet coverage, in Ukraine - 1 in 3 has access to the Internet, only about 30% of the population.

Bookmakers, of course, can develop thismarket, if they do not interfere. The government often creates a number of restrictions that paralyze the market. The simplest method is to prohibit, not regulate. But if mutually beneficial conditions are created, the Ukrainian market will be able to develop well. Ukraine has great potential in the bookmaker industry.

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