1xBet, an online gambling company banned in Russia, has apparently donated 1 million euros to help Ukraine. Whether it was done for humanitarian purposes or for supporting the fight, the answer to this question seems to depend on which side of the barricades you are on
It is Time to set up
It happened a couple of weeks ago, in mid-June, and since then the details are getting more and more mysterious. It cannot be said that 1xBet’s decision to “invest” in Ukraine was completely unexpected. It perfectly fits in the general strategy of the company which decided to “set up” its business in Ukraine. Despite the fact that 1xBet is a huge network of legal entities with an unknown number of decision-making centers and beneficiaries registered in offshore zones, it also needs real locations to obtain a license. Ukraine provided this opportunity after the adoption in August 2020 of the law on gambling business, which allowed casinos and betting shops (including on the Internet), slot machines and online poker organizations.
With real rather than nominal oversight in the country, this law essentially opens up unlimited opportunities for a limited number of people.
In June 2021, Your Betting Company was registered in Ukraine. On March 30, 2022, it received a license from the Gambling and Lottery Regulation Commission of Ukraine to conduct betting activities and gambling and casino on the Internet.
The same document states that the company will operate under the 1xBet brand on the domain 1xbet.ua.
Worthiest man in Bryansk
The 1xBet brand is registered in Navasard, a Cypriot offshore, which leads to 1xStavka, a Russian bookmaker, and its founder Roman Semiokhin, the richest man in Bryansk, through a chain of firms.
However, now Roman Semiokhin prefers other cities for living. For his participation in the investment program, Semiokhin received Cyprus citizenship, where he now resides with his partners Dmitry Kazorin and Sergey Karshkov.
Karshkov is a former chief cyber policeman in Bryansk who started working with Semiokhin in 2011 after receiving a proposal from him to develop a predictive model of customer behavior for a bookmaker’s office.
Recipe for Success
It is no secret that all online casinos are complicated schemes designed to win from customers based on analysis of their behavior. In fact, they are no different from “classic” casinos, but the role of croupiers and interior designers in this case are algorithms built on the analysis of big data. Thus, the main secret of success of a modern online gambling establishment is a programmer who knows how to create such algorithms.
In 2014, when new rules for online bookmakers were adopted in Russia, 1xBet lost its license. That is when 1xStavka was “born,” operating as a classic betting agency under Russian law, it retained the rights to the 1xBet.ru domain. When you try to enter this site, you are redirected to quite law-abiding https://1xstavka.ru/.
1xBet continues to accept online bets from Russian citizens, fleeing from the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) blocking through numerous “mirrors”, but is believed to have “given the cold shower” to the Russian market, having begun international expansion. This expansion was bright and very short-lived. After an exposé by the UK’s The Sunday Times, which revealed in 2019 how the Bryansk bigwigs had set up online casinos in a porn format and accepted bets on children’s sports under the cover of permission from the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC), 1xBet’s license in the UK was revoked.
Then the black day came for 1xCorr MV, one of 1xBet’s archipelago subsidiaries, which was licensed in Curacao, an island state that specializes in issuing licenses to institutions with a tarnished reputation. Even there, they couldn’t digest 1xBet. After starting a lawsuit filed by aggrieved players, 1xBet MV was forced to file for self-bankruptcy in November 2021, and left Curacao as early as January 2022.
It was at this time the company was actively developing the territory of Ukraine. In contrast to the island of Curacao 1xBet felt comfortable on the Ukrainian mainland. The company which was initially Russian was able to get a license in an unfriendly jurisdiction.
It didn’t take long for Ukrainian “patriots” with connections in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to pick up the trail and soon there was an “investigation” by InformNapalm stating that the license had been lobbied by “grey cardinal” of the gambling regulatory body Boris Baum.
Then something much more interesting began to happen. Ukrainian telegram feeds began a massive sweep of reports about the investigation. Messages “mysteriously” disappeared in such popular Telegram channels as Ukraine Online News, Insider UA, Perepichka News, Advokat Prava.
It should come as no surprise that was the Bryansk sites that started publishing the information that 1 million euros is a “gift” from 1xBet for military aid to Ukraine. Of course, arming the benderovites with gamblers’ money does not really fit the concept of even such a bookmaker with a controversial reputation as 1xBet. The rebuttal came quite soon, but it does not seem convincing at all. According to it, is all lies and machinations of competitors through a couple of dubious sites, which have already been caught publishing fake news and no one transferred a million to anyone.
What press release? Where was it published? Who signed it? What million euros is it referred to? There are questions both for you, the journalists, and for us, the company representatives. We did not transfer any funds, so don’t let them fantasize.
In this connection, it would be very interesting to know, in the first place, who are the competitors of this 1xBet? Is it not 1xBet by any chance? Secondly, it seems that, according to subsequent internet publications, 1 million euros was nevertheless intended not for military aid to Ukraine but for the Red Cross, which is not forbidden. Thirdly, if we refer to English-language sources, which can hardly be suspected of any special love for Russia, 1 million euros to Ukraine from 1xBet can be seen directly in the headline, but we cannot find the Red Cross as the recipient of the payment in the text.
Finally, this news was published not on a couple of second-rate sites but, for example, in such a reputable publication as Moskovsky Komsomolets. Although the page on the main site leads to a “404 error,” those wishing to know how the Bryansk billionaire Roman Semiohin donated 1 million euros to support Ukraine can in a turbo-copy of the publication.
In other words, some important person decided that the existence of 1xBet was above patriotism.
All eyes were bent on Boris Baum, a person was not very well known outside of narrow circles before. Those in close circles associated the Soviet Jurmala native with the trio of Russian businessmen, Alexander Babakov, Yevgeny Giner and Mikhail Voyevodin.
This connection was traced through the Russian-Ukrainian VS Energy group, where Baum worked as a top manager. The company has always had strong political ties in Ukraine, without which it would never have been able to acquire significant energy and real estate assets. These connections turned out to be so strong and international that VS Energy was able to keep its assets both in Ukraine and in Sevastopol, where it controlled Sevastopolenergo, a monopolist in the electric power industry. Only the beginning of a special military operation made it possible to buy out this company in favor of Russia.
The interests of this group in Ukraine are represented by Mikhail Spektor, whose assistant was Boris Bauman. Spektor himself is currently “caught in the silence.” In the peaceful year of 2013, he was much more talkative. He spoke about the group’s Ukrainian plans, which had to be implemented in completely new conditions.
Besides the Ukrainian ones, Baumann has even stranger and “closer” connections.
Under the name Boris Baums, he appeared as the head of Brenrose ltd, the company that owns RTVI, along with Kirill Ganin, who is listed as a CEO of several Rostec subsidiaries. Mikhail Borshevsky, Galina Starovoitova’s ex-husband and a man with an incredibly interesting fate and biography, also appears in the list of directors of this company.
In 1970s, Borshevsky was an expert in regional policy and social policy issues for the USSR State Planning Committee, but in the 1980s he moved to London, where he and his son Platon were engaged in various consulting activities in the implementation of various projects in Russia. This is the kind of deep state against which the donation of a million euros to the enemy looks like an innocent prank.