How the Gambling Sector in Ukraine Reacted to the Full-Scale War in the Country

There are many gambling companies operating in Ukraine, and in a series of five roundtables in partnership with the Bet On Good Foundation, SBC spoke to these companies to find out how they were affected by the conflict. SBC wanted to discuss how the betting and gambling industry can support the local community.

The war in Ukraine has been dominating the headlines in recent months, but few understand how it has affected local game providers. How do you understand this situation?

Vlad Slyusarenko, CEO at the Bet On Good Foundation: In my opinion, this is, first of all, the cruel and completely unjustified genocide of the Ukrainian people, which affects not only Ukraine, but the whole world. Moreover, this war has become a test for a country that aspires to democracy, freedom and development.

Currently, Ukraine is experiencing rising inflation, food shortages, rising food prices and regular power outages in cities due to regular large-scale missile attacks from the territory currently under Russian control (including Belarus). 

All of these issues are interconnected, and this applies to the gambling industry as well. Players are less solvent, have less access to electricity, and are therefore less involved with the industry’s products and offerings.

However, it is curious that Ukrainians, perhaps due to fatigue, are rekindling the excitement of watching sports and making bets, albeit minimal, on the outcome of matches, increasing their spending on entertainment and recreation. 

We were delighted with such important sporting events as the rematch between the reigning WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO professional boxing champions, the great Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua from the UK. This event not only cheered us up, but also reawakened the excitement.

Ivan Kravchuk, CEO at Evoplay: The impact of the war on the Ukrainian economy cannot be underestimated, especially for Ukrainian companies, as well as the gambling industry. Businesses are currently in a more difficult situation, especially with regard to their day-to-day operations, as they face a number of war-related challenges.

At the same time, we see the undeniable resilience of Ukrainian gambling operators. This ensures that we can continue to serve the industry as well as we have done in the past, proving that we are resilient in the face of such adversity.

Some companies had to relocate completely and now they have fully recovered and have confirmed that they really do have a place to meet and work together as a team.

Looking back at this and last year, EvoPlay shows how flexible we are and how quickly we can adapt to any situation. We were able not only to move forward when the war began, but also to make this period successful for our business. 

Since then, we’ve reached new heights, launched more products and won some of the industry’s most prestigious awards. I cannot express in words how proud I am of our team.

Igor Terebinov, Deputy CEO at PokerMatch: February 24, 2022. The beginning of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. All Ukrainians woke up from the roar of explosions and for some time fell out of the usual rhythm of life, wondering how this is possible in the 21st century, what to do next, how to protect themselves, their families and their country, and, moreover, how to save their business and support their employees. Each of us needed time to think.

I needed time to mobilize and understand what would happen next. But the shock passed, and I realized that every Ukrainian can help his country by helping where they are and in those areas in which they are at their best competence.

From the first day of the full-scale invasion, the PokerMatch team refused to deal with Russian players and terminated all advertising contracts with Russian partners.

Then we joined the initiative of the Ukrainian poker community, which turned to the global poker community. In their statement, the players called for a boycott of games in Russian poker rooms and the destruction of all relations with the Russian poker community. After all, Russian aggression concerns not only Ukraine, but the whole world. As the largest platform of the Ukrainian poker community, we fully share the thesis that “poker is a sport” and support the initiative to isolate Russian sports until the end of military aggression.

PokerMatch has been and remains a company built as a sustainable business that needs to be prepared for turbulence. Of course, no one was ready for a full-scale war, but the company had the reserves necessary to maintain business in predictable crisis situations. And we used them. In the first few months, we temporarily froze hiring new employees, reviewing salaries, paying bonuses and purchasing equipment.

However, logically, starting in April, players began to return to the game more often, and by the end of April, PokerMatch had almost completely restored the pre-war volume of the game. PokerMatch has approved an ambitious strategic development plan for the coming years. It identified two key overseas markets for the brand’s presence.

Evgen Belousov, CEO at GR8 Tech: The war in Ukraine affected absolutely everyone, and everything took a 180 degree turn.

For employees, the workload is distributed in a way that minimizes the impact of power outages and missile attacks. In Ukraine, we make sure that our employees can work in a comfortable and safe environment, with uninterrupted power supply and Internet access, as well as in a bomb shelter with basic amenities. Several offices were opened in Kyiv and other cities of Ukraine so that as many employees as possible have access to electricity, the Internet and heating. During periods when it was very difficult to live at home, employees sometimes stayed in the office with their families.

At the same time, we continued to work in a hybrid remote format, encouraging everyone to choose the method that suits them best. In addition, in May 2022, a new office was opened in Prague, which became the base for all employees who were forced to temporarily leave their country. Everyone who had the opportunity and desire to leave Ukraine due to hostilities received our full support for temporary or permanent relocation and the opportunity to work in our offices in Prague or Limassol.

Speaking about our business, we pay more attention to the diversification of our assets. As you know, at the beginning of 2023, we transformed Parimatch Tech into GR8 Tech, reflecting our transition into the B2B industry. This transition plan had been in the making for some time, but the invasion forced us to act faster and more decisively.

All this required flexibility, internal resources and resilience, and changes that would have taken time were implemented at an accelerated pace in less than a year. The diversification also made it possible to reduce the company’s key functions outside of Ukraine. This reduced the workload for employees in Ukraine, working in psychologically and physically difficult conditions, and ensured the continuity of all processes.

Daniel Haywood, CEO at NuxGame: Financial instability and the restrictions caused by the war have made it difficult for some companies to conduct banking and process payments. However, other than that, the impact of the war on the gambling industry was limited and the industry survived.

In today’s hyper-connected and globalized world, the gambling industry is finding ways to adapt to the constraints and challenges that threaten to hinder its growth. Many companies find alternative solutions and create new partnerships that allow them to continually evolve and grow despite challenging conditions. In doing so, they demonstrate the strength of the industry in the region and the adaptability of the suppliers that support them.

Ruslan Kravchuk, Human Resources Manager, Playson: The war in Ukraine has affected business activity in many ways, starting with accessibility, productivity and, most importantly, people’s safety. War involves many critical situations and requires quick decisions.

Indeed, this traumatic experience has shown that business ethics and values ​​can be translated into concrete corporate actions, allowing Playson to quickly adapt and achieve its business goals. This would not have been possible without the heroic deeds of employees who worked in bomb shelters, found ways to work through blackouts, and worked at night when they could not work during the day.

The most important thing is not the direction of the company, but the willingness of employees to work together to create great products and feel responsible and belonging to their work. 

Our employees are adapting to the ongoing crisis. If our culture is not sufficiently mature and transparent, we would not survive.
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