Now is the right moment for international operators to make an investment in CIS and Balkans related expansion strategies, asserted numerous panellists at day two of the SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital.

Taking part in a ‘CIS & the Balkans – The next big thing?’ discussion, the expert panel dissected the goings on across multitude of jurisdictions, doing so before the region becomes a firm focus in the SBC Digital Summit CIS, which takes place later this year on November 4-5.

Before 75 executive speakers participate in the first ever event fully dedicated to the CIS region, delivered in association with Sports Media Holding, Ilya Machavariani, head of Russian and CIS gambling and gaming practice, Dentons, began today’s discussion by providing an overview of recent activity. 

“I think that maybe the main point I would like to tell you and that I would like to discuss is that, I have a feeling that generally CIS has started to open up and I mean that Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Russia; all of these countries are trying to somehow work on their regulations, or already existing ones, and introduce some new ones.

“And the main thing about these countries is that I see, as a lawyer at least, that the regulators and people who are responsible for these new laws are really looking towards the best international practices. At least from my point of view. 

“For instance, if we look at Ukraine here, I think it’s really good that Ukraine is trying to be open to the international community and everybody will notice that because the Ukrainian legislation, which basically has happened a couple of month ago, was covered in each and every international igaming magazine and igaming media.”

I think that today … is the right moment for everyone to move into this direction”

Adding: “I think that today, and coming maybe a couple of years in the future, is the right moment for everyone to move into this direction and to look at the CIS.”

Praising transparency and clarity as two key facets that should ensure that “every international operator” looks into this direction, Machavariani also touched upon two more regions which have been on the radar in recent times.

Firstly, recent movements in Uzbekistan were noted, with the country aiming to draw up a new set of regulations for sports betting and also looking to attract international operators.

Furthermore, Machavariani also touched upon rumours swirling concerning potential manoeuvres in Tajikistan which suggest that the country will be looking to regulate “each and every vertical that there is”.

Machavariani was joined at the panel by Maxim Afanasyev, CPO of Ligastavok, Minja Bolesnikov, CEO of MaxBet, and Irakli Davarashvili, CMO of Adjarabet, with Lasha Machavariani, CEO/founder of Setanta Sports Media, taking the moderating reigns.

The former of those subsequently picked up the conversation, delving into recent goings on in Ligastavok’s home market of Russia: “Things happen very fast in Russia, especially when it comes to changing the law,” Afanasyev noted.

“Just one month ago a new law was signed that regulates bookmakers activity and on October 1 it will come into force, so what is changing is that starting from October we will only be able to accept bets on official sports events.” 

In essence, the impending development means that legal operators will have to ditch novelty markets, such as the Eurovision song content and the Oscars, however the ‘official sports’ ruling will not affect esports. 

Following a further investigative dive into further CIS and Balkans regions talk soon turned back to Ukraine, with Afanasyev saying of his firm’s outlook on the country: “Well I would say that if you look at the overall CIS and post Soviet area, we would put Ukraine as market number two after Russia in terms of the sizes, so it’s definitely an interesting piece of cake.

“…what is missing a little right now is the 100 per cent clarity”

“And I would assume that a lot of operators from all over the world are looking toward entering the market. But I think that what is missing a little right now is the 100 per cent clarity on how things will work out and it will take some time before there will be some movements. 

“For us, I would say that we’re in a position of looking into this market and possible entry in the mid-term, so it’s not going to be an immediate move tomorrow lets say, but it’s definitely on our list.”

Echoing those sentiments was Davarashvili, who commented that Adjarabet would be looking to expand out of Georgia and Armenia, stating that “I think that Ukraine will also be interesting”.

As the discussion neared a conclusion, Bolesnikov picked up the Ukraine-focused conversation: “Obviously we are closely monitoring several different fields of potential activity, first one is that obviously in the Balkans we are going to finish the story there, but this does mean that if a proper chance arises we will not be attacking it. 

“Obviously we were already approached to do something in Ukraine, we were offered an introduction to the market, partnerships, etc. But similarly to Maxim, we are going to be cautious and we are going to be careful in that segment.” 

It was added that MaxBet views Western Europe, particularly Spain, as further potential expansion sites, with the US also touched upon as Bolesnikov says that the firm has done its homework and that “those are places we feel that we could do a lot”.

SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital is a FREE to attend virtual conference and exhibition running from 8-11 September. To register for your free ticket or find out more please visit –

SBC is staging its first ever event fully dedicated to the CIS region on 4-5 November 2020. SBC Digital Summit CIS, organised in association with Sports Media Holding, will feature a virtual conference with 75 high-level speakers, an interactive product display area, and a programme of networking roundtables. 

Click here to register for your free pass for SBC Digital Summit CIS.