William Hill drops Russia online venture

William Hill Casino Club, an online casino project of the UK’s largest bookmaker William Hill, has stopped servicing its Russian clients and announced it is leaving the Russian market, local media has reported.

“The environment for carrying out gambling activities in Russia has become more complex, despite the fact that the company has official licenses. Hence, we have decided to leave the Russian market,” gambling-related news website Newsofgambling.com quoted William Hill representatives as saying.

Another website quoted the company as saying that activities have been suspended since 23 September and all active client accounts had been suspended.

The news came amid the ongoing crackdown on illegal gambling websites by Russia’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor, which started in summer 2016. In September, for instance, the regulator blocked over 1,500 gambling websites, including mirror sites of William Hill.

According to Sarkis Darbinyan, the head and lawyer of the Digital Rights Protection Center, restricted access to such websites started in 2012 when prosecution authorities obtained an opportunity to go to court with lawsuits in special proceedings. The mechanism worked in such way that any district procurator could bring an action in their jurisdiction, and then the court declared the resource information illegal.

However, says Darbinyan, “after the Law No. 222-FZ providing regulation on prohibiting gambling and lotteries activity using the Internet became effective and after related amendments to the Federal Law No. 149-FZ on Information, the Federal Tax Service of Russia obtained an opportunity to pass judgments on blocking gambling information websites without legal proceedings.”

Darbinyan states that there are currently only four legalized bookmakers that the Federal Tax Service doesn’t block. All of them are members of the Center of tracking the interactive bet transactions. The list can be found on the official website.      

Darbinyan is one of the speakers at the fortchoming Russia Gaming Week Sochi on 27 October 2016.