Russian online gambling operator 1xBet, well known for its regulatory troubles in multiple jurisdictions, landed in hot water in the UK this past week after a Sunday Times investigation detailed its involvement in some rather dodgy practices.
The Sunday Times investigation prompted the suspension of the operator’s UK website and the launch of a probe by the UK Gambling Commission, as confirmed by the regulator itself.
1xBet was founded in Russia in 2007. The company initially targeted Russian gambling customers, but has since then expanded in multiple international markets. It is currently registered in Cyprus, licensed in Curacao… and blacklisted in multiple jurisdictions, including its homeland.
Up until recently, 1xBet was able to operate in the UK as the white-label partner of online gambling platform provider FSB Technology (UK) Ltd. Following the publication of the Sunday Times investigation, FSB suspended 1xBet’s UK-facing website.
The Sunday Times investigation detailed 1xBet’s involvement in extremely questionable and almost certainly illegal gaming and advertising practices. The news outlet found that those practices involved promoting a “pornhub casino”, taking bets on children’s sports, and advertising on illegal websites.
According to the Sunday Times investigation, 1xBet is involved in the operation of a pornhub casino that lures players with topless croupiers. The news outlet also pointed out that the Russian bookmaker is among the biggest advertisers on websites that illegally stream Premier League football matches. It also advertises its products on pirate websites.
An ad on one such website spotted by the Sunday Times featured a topless young woman lying on her back and removing her underwear, the news outlet reported. The ad, which almost certainly violates UK and other advertising codes, linked to 1xBet’s now suspended UK website.
According to Peter Szyszko, Chief Executive of White Bullet Solutions, a London-based intellectual property consultant, 1xBet was “on the radar” of authorities and gambling regulators around the world. He added that the Russian operator might be “helping to fund sites which in many cases are run by criminal gangs.”
Of the questionable advertising practices revealed by the Sunday Times, 1xBet said that those should be blamed on third-party affiliates and networks that promote the operator. The company said that “if any of these third-party networks or partners are found to advertise the 1xBet brand on prohibited sites or sites which break the law, 1xBet shall investigate immediately.”
The Russian bookmaker’s UK white-label partner revealed that it was reviewing its license agreement with 1xBet.
1xBet has recently announced betting partnerships with Liverpool and Chelsea in the UK. And last year, the operator became the official betting partner of Tottenham for Africa.
However, following the Sunday Times’ findings, all three Premier League clubs are facing massive backlash over the estimated £50 million a year they are trousering from their multi-year deals with the naughty operator.
It should also be noted that 1xBet was recently blacklisted by Kenyan gambling regulators as part of a larger crackdown on gaming and betting operations in the nation. The country is known to be one of the biggest gambling markets in Africa with rapid growth in the popularity of sports betting among young gamblers.
1xBet recently scored a five-season sponsorship deal with Barcelona, becoming the Spanish team’s Global Partner. In 2018, the operator was named as International Presenting Partner for Italy’s Serie A though the 2021 football season.
1xBet’s Regulatory Troubles
As mentioned above, 1xBet is blacklisted in a wide number of regulated markets due to its failure to comply with the respective regulations of those markets. In Poland, where the country’s new gambling law took effect in 2017, there are nearly 200 1xBet-related domains in the Finance Ministry’s blacklist of unauthorized operators.
Last fall, the Tel Aviv District Court ordered that 1xBet’s website targeting Israeli gambling customers should be blocked. Israel’s gambling law currently permits the provision of limited gambling products on the territory of the country, and 1xBet was not authorized to offer any of these.
Earlier this year, 1xBet was fined €400,000 by the Netherland’s gambling regulator for servicing Dutch gamblers without being authorized to do so. The company was found to have offered its products in Dutch language and to have used local payment method iDEAL to lure Dutch customers.
As mentioned earlier, the UK Gambling Commission has launched a probe into 1xBet’s activities. If the regulator establishes that the Russian operator has indeed broken advertising codes and other terms of its local license, it could face a hefty fine or even worse.
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