In French Ligue 1, LOSC, PSG and Lyon have signed partnerships with the online betting site 1xBet, which uses their image in Africa. A partner far from being free from reproach.
For several seasons, Ligue 1 clubs, the football championship in France, have been linked with a company about which they communicate little. A few weeks ago, the Lille Olympique Sporting Club (Lille), champion of France 2021, announced on the sly - a simple press release in English - that 1xBet had obtained the rights to use the logo of the French club and its players for its promotional campaigns in Africa. 1xBet is ubiquitous in Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Senegal.
In the statement, the 1xBet company prides itself on being “world-renowned with more than 15 years of experience” and “cooperating with renowned sports clubs and organizations”. 1xBet quotes in particular FC Barcelona, the Italian Serie A, the African Football Confederation CAF “and others”.
1xBet accumulates penalties and convictions
Among the others, we can mention Paris Saint-Germain or Olympique Lyonnais. On the side of the Premier League, it is more complicated. Because since 2019, the 1xBet company is no longer authorized to operate in the country and several contracts have been broken, in particular with the Tottenham club. 1xBet was a partner of Chelsea and Liverpool, but also of several Premier League stars: Roberto Firmino, Willian, Harry Kane, Virgil van Dijk or Olivier Giroud.
What do we blame the company for? The newspaper mediacities affirms, in an article published ten days ago, that this “infrequent sponsor which Losc does not want to talk about (…) accumulates sanctions and convictions”, but that he will nevertheless be able to “exploit the image of the Lille club for three years on the African continent". Why is LOSC, as the newspaper asserts, "observing an embarrassed silence today"?
The Sunday Times investigated in 2019. In appearance, 1xBet looks like all other online betting websites. The company is of Russian origin but based in Cyprus and holds its license in Curaçao, a Dutch island. It would have been founded in Bryansk by Roman Semiokhin, Sergey Karshkov and Dmitry Kazorin, three Russians who would then have gone into exile in Cyprus. European sanctions against Russia, however, have nothing to do with the scandal revealed by the press in recent days.
What is problematic are the methods of the Russian online bookmaker. The facade is beautiful: 1xBet was the official sponsor of the last African Cup of Nations. But if it has a storefront in Africa, 1xBet is no longer welcome in several European countries today.
A pornographic… casino
The Sunday Times investigation notably revealed the existence of a "porn casino" launched by 1xBet, betting on children's sports and even advertisements for illegal websites. After the dossier was published in England, the UK Gambling Commission launched an investigation. The Russian-Cypriot company was finally banned from operating in Britain a month later. The Gaming Commission then wrote to the clubs having contracted with 1xBet to inform them of the illegality of the operation.
On the side of 1xBet, the official reaction was classic: "We are an internationally established gaming company, which respects all the laws and regulations applicable in each jurisdiction in which we operate", assured the spokesperson of the portal who claims to have " taken very seriously the allegation that the 1xBet brand was promoted on prohibited sites”. But this would have been done without the knowledge of 1xBet, according to the press release from the bookmaker.
1xBet escapes the French regulatory authority
A bookmaker who nevertheless seems far from being as irreproachable as he claims. 1xBet indeed first lost its license, before recovering it after a bankruptcy. To avoid bad press, according to Eurosport, 1xBet would have rebounded in League “under the alias of 22Bet”. In fact, 1xBet would have a quirielle of online betting sites. A survey by the Asian Racing Federation estimates that an operator like 1xBet has an average of… 12 sites, whose “names are constantly changing in order to escape the attention of regulators” asserts Eurosport.
1xBet is also accused of having illegally retransmitted Premier League images in Poland, the Netherlands or Israel. In Kenya, bets on competitions contested by minors have led to fines. In France, 1xBet is not welcome either, the regulatory authority, ARJEL now ANJ, having banned the site which offers to go through VPNs to access it.
The National Gaming Authority, however, remains without recourse with regard to the partnerships established between French clubs and 1xBet: the agreement concerning Africa and Asia, neither the club nor the online betting site have the obligation to report it to the ANJ.