The illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russia has logically led to a complete breakdown in the commercial relationship between the two. Ukraine doesn’t want Russian companies operating inside its borders, but at least one gambling company slipped in and has been stealing consumers’ private data.
Ukrainian citizens show support for their country. Even as Ukraine battles an attempted hostile military takeover, it has to deal with issues from Russian gambling operators. (Image: Getty Images)
Ukraine’s Commission for the Regulation of Gambling and Lotteries (KRAIL, for its Ukrainian acronym) has had a complete ban on Russian gaming operators since February. Policing the space under normal conditions isn’t easy, but the current situation makes things more difficult.
It now seems that 1XBet, a known Russian gambling platform with a history of breaking the law, escaped detection. It was able to attract users from Ukraine, although perhaps only in an effort to glean information about where the country’s money is.
1XBet Flies Under the Radar
KRAIL’s boss, Olena Vodolashko, told a local media outlet last week that the regulator is cracking down on Russian participation in the country’s gambling space once again. While no Russian gaming company can provide service in Ukraine, Vodolashko pointed out that there are still procedures to follow before revoking an operator’s license.
Vodolashko conducted the interview in the wake of public outcry over a supposed lack of intervention. It took a decree from Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, to force 1XBet out of the country.
A local media outlet, Inform Napalm, uncovered concerning new details about 1XBet last month that forced the operator into the limelight. Working through a network of platforms, it allegedly is stealing the personal data of Ukrainians.
Among the platforms the media outlet included are MelBet, PointLoto, FanSport and BetWinner. These are only a few that 1XBet created to try to mask its activity. BetWinner received a license in Ukraine in 2022 but never launched inside the country.
Inform Napalm reportedly uncovered the paper trails linking the various sites together. For example, it found that MelBet’s server shares the same IP with a 1XBet mirror. The design of the two sites is identical and they offer the same sports betting odds.
Waging War Through Data
There is also evidence that links Sergey Karshkov, a 1XBet co-founder, to several other entities. Karshkov has a history of involvement in illegal gambling and other crimes, and all of the entities, including the gaming platforms, share a single content management system (CMS).
This leads to two possible and hypothetical scenarios. The first would give Russia access to information pertaining to those Ukrainians with greater wealth. They could then become targets for kidnapping, financial theft and more.
On the other hand, there are the online gamblers and bettors who might be struggling financially. Russia could target these and turn them into assets to spy on Ukraine in return for money.
In any war, information can be the most valuable weapon in an arsenal. The more data Russia has, the more strength it has.
KRAIL Needs Support
KRAIL faced accusations that it didn’t move quickly enough to oust 1XBet. However, Vodolashko stated that the regulator had to abide by certain guidelines before it could take action. Given the situation in Ukraine, the processes can sometimes take a little longer.
Vodolashko took the opportunity to issue a plea to the global gaming community to assist in the crackdown. She reiterated KRAIL’s push for software suppliers and others to break ties with Russian companies in support of Ukraine.
The global community, for the most part, condemns Russia for its illegal invasion. Vodolashko hopes the gaming segment will continue to do so, as well, and help the country rebuild.
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