Coincidence or not, the prohibition of gambling advertising law was done in the first half of 2022 almost simultaneously in the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia. In our country, the ban entered into force on January 1, 2022, in Georgia on March 1, and in Armenia on March 4.
In the Republic of Moldova, the changes to the law were made without any market studies and ignoring the opinion of the Ministry of Finance regarding the loss of revenues to the state budget. At the same time, although the advertising of gambling games was banned in the Republic of Moldova, the transfers through banks of black market operators, i.e. illegal, were not banned by the National Bank of Moldova. Accordingly, commercial banks are free to operate such transfers, which actually represent an exodus of money from illegal activities out of the country.
Market experts claim that the ban on gambling advertising was done with a single purpose in the three countries. It is about the market entry of the 1xBet bookmaker, controlled by a group of Russian citizens connected to the Russian secret services. This company 1xBet operates unofficially in the Republic of Moldova, and none of the authorities of our country have reacted to this fact.
It is curious that the said 1xBet bookmaker was banned on September 7, 2022, in Ukraine. The Gaming and Lotteries Regulatory Commission (KRAIL) of the neighboring country decided to cancel two licenses for “Tvoya bettingovaia Kompania” (TBK) SRL for casino and betting activities under the Russian brand 1xBet.
At the same time, the journalists of the Ukrainian site Informnapalm.org learned that the final owners of “1XBet” since the establishment of this company remain three Russian citizens – Roman Semiohin, Sergey Karshkov, and Dmitry Kazorin. The first betting platform “1xBet” was created by the three in the city of Bryansk, Russia. Previously, Sergey Karshkov was the head of the Bryansk department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia for combating cybercrime, and Roman Semiohin has a joint business with the wife of the former mayor of Bryansk, a deputy of the Bryansk Regional Duma, a construction magnate and a member of the United Russia Party (“United Russia”), Nikolai Patov. The investigation also revealed that an influential person in Ukrainian political circles lobbied for the release of the license.
Meanwhile, the company “1xBet” continues to operate illegally on the territory of our country, and its advertising, as well as that of other unauthorized portals, appears both on social networks and in Google advertising banners placed on websites with a Moldovan domain, even if the advertising gambling in the Republic of Moldova was prohibited by law.
Previously, the press wrote that Dumitru Alaiba (the author of the law no. r), through this law, would promote the interests of 1xBet, and a close associate of the deputy would have met for this purpose with the FSB general from the Bryansk region, who coordinates the sports betting site unauthorized from Moldova.
The study of the non-governmental organization “Legal Business Monitor”, based on the official data of the National Bank of Moldova, shows that in 2020, companies operating illegally in our country attracted over 511 million lei from Moldovan players. The situation changed radically in 2021: the share of money reaching illegal and unauthorized companies dropped dramatically, up to 155.5 million lei. And that’s because the only authorized site, the National Lottery of Moldova, managed to attract players to the legal field, registering a substantial increase in the number and values of payments, including to the state budget. However, the analysis made by the non-governmental organization “Legal Business Monitor” shows that, since the beginning of 2022, the number of Moldovan players on illegal sites has increased by more than 60%.
After the ban on advertising, the state budget deficits are estimated at one billion lei. And this has nothing to do with the refusal of citizens of the Republic of Moldova to participate in gambling, but with their migration to the dark sector, where they do not have to pay taxes.