As Parimatch Ukraine shuts down, esports teams and creators wonder how to make ends meet

Luís Mira

Parimatch has suspended all operations in Ukraine following sanctions imposed by the country’s government. For those who were partnered with the betting firm in Ukraine, it is another rough blow amid the ongoing war.

Parimatch Ukraine announced on March 12 that it had suspended its operations and shut down its platform after being included on a sanctions list released by the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, two days earlier.

Parimatch was among the 287 companies that were sanctioned by Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council in relation to Russia’s ongoing invasion. As a result, the betting firm has been banned from conducting business in the country for the next 50 years. All commercial partnerships have been suspended, with employees set to be laid off.

“These are more than 280 companies and 120 people who, through gambling business schemes, worked against Ukraine, withdrew funds from our state and financed various Russian schemes,” Zelensky said in a statement.

The news caught many by surprise in Ukraine, given Parimatch’s condemnation of the war. In March 2022, one week after the start of the invasion, Parimatch Tech – the company that developed the platform and marketing solutions for the Parimatch brand and that in January rebranded to GR8 Tech – pulled the franchise from Russia. That same month, it also doubled its financial assistance to Ukraine to $2 million and denounced Russia as the “aggressor” in the war.

Founded in Kyiv but currently based in Cyprus, Parimatch operates internationally in several countries. It is partnered with several football clubs, including Premier League quartet Chelsea, Leicester City, Newcastle and Aston Villa, and a number of esports organizations, most notably Team Secret and 00 Nation.

For less than two weeks, B8 Esports also had a deal in place with Parimatch. The Ukrainian organization, founded in 2020 by Dota 2 legend Danil ‘Dendi’ Ishutin, officially added Parimatch to its list of partners on March 7 in replacement of another betting company, Esports Bet. Less than a week later, Parimatch’s logo disappeared from B8’s social media banners.

“We had plans to establish a long-term partnership with Parimatch, with the goal of helping to develop esports in Ukraine, starting from March 1,” Dendi told Dexerto.

“However, the recent news has come as a shock to us all. We are currently facing a financial crisis and are actively searching for resources to pay our team and partners and continue our operations.”

In addition to their Dota 2 roster, which competes in DPC NA Division I, B8 Esports have professional teams in CS:GO and Valorant.

For now, there is nothing to suggest that Parimatch’s operations outside of Ukraine will be affected by these sanctions. (Different companies own the rights to the ‘Parimatch’ brand across Europe through franchise deals). But Chelsea, for example, are reportedly reviewing their partnership with Parimatch following the news of the sanctions.

00 Nation declined to comment when contacted by Dexerto. Team Secret did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Finding alternatives to Parimatch

But it’s not just B8 Esports that have been left reeling from Parimatch’s sudden exit from Ukraine. A number of streamers and content creators are now scrambling to find alternative revenue streams, at a time when the economic uncertainty facing the world and the ongoing war in the country have made sponsorship opportunities much harder to come by.

“Some esports content creators in Ukraine will lose most of their income,” Oleksandr ‘petr1k’ Petryk, a CS:GO analyst and content creator with over 230,000 YouTube subscribers, told Dexerto. “[But] some will be able to replace Parimatch with other bookmakers or sponsors sooner or later.

“I have canceled some ambitious projects, and other content creators probably have as well. Nobody expected this or was ready for it.”

petr1k’s partnership with Parimatch has come to an end

In its statement, Parimatch Ukraine said that it is looking for a legal mechanism to refund its customers, who are owed UAH 250 million ($6.8 million), according to Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda.

Parimatch added that it remains hopeful that Mr. Zelensky will review NSDC’s decision, pointing out that the amount of taxes and license fees paid in 2023 amounted to UAH 485 million ($13.2 million).

“We ask you to check the information that was falsified during the decision of the National Security and Defense Council and take appropriate actions regarding all unlawful violations by the Security Service of Ukraine,” the betting firm said.

“We are ready for public discussion, ready to answer all questions from the media and law enforcement agencies, and are ready to defend our position in court.”

For many Ukrainian content creators, Parimatch’s shutdown has further upended their lives. Partnerships with betting companies are, according to petr1k, one of the few revenue sources available to them since the start of the war.

Still, petr1k said it’s a sacrifice he is willing to pay in the service of a greater good.

“I’m sure most creators in Ukraine will be happy not to have any projects with companies somehow still connected to Russia,” he said. “Parimatch denies that it has such connections, but Ukrainian authorities most likely have a strong reason to implement such sanctions.

“From a business point of view, Ukrainian esports is almost dead due to the ongoing war. It will be completely dead without bookmakers. The exception is NAVI since they have broken into the international market. Hard times…”