With 100,000 Russian troops massed for possible invasion on its eastern border, now might not be the time to invest in Ukraine.
Traditional logic, common sense, would suggest as much.
But since when did tradition–or playing safely by conventional rules– make anyone very, very rich? Comfortable maybe; possibly even the richest “pygmy” in the money jungle, with a few million liquid to splash around. But a billionaire? Never.
As we’re on an eastern European theme, let’s take legendary Hungarian-American billionaire investor George Soros, for example.
Soros has given away over 60 per cent of his US$50 billion fortune (£36.9bn/€44bn) to liberal social causes.
He first came to prominence by foreseeing the October, 1987 stock market crash and then by shorting
the British pound in 1992, “breaking” the Bank of England and reportedly making a profit of US$1 billion (£737m/€880m) in his coup de finance.
“I occupy an exceptional position,” Soros once explained. “My success in the financial markets has given me a greater degree of independence than most other people. This allows me to take a stand on controversial issues. In fact it obliges me to do so.”
It’s the type of advice that inspires Evi Antonakos, Head of Sales and Business Development at TVBet, a leading provider of live casino games, founded by Ukrainian CEO Peter Korpusenko in 2016 with the express aim of working the so-called Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
The 11 eastern European and Central Asian CIS nations—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine—were once part of the USSR.
So Cyprus-headquartered TVBet–now with offices in Lithuania, Poland, where Evi is based, Russia and Ukraine–know a thing or two about challenging and nominally difficult markets.
“Obstacles are there to equip us with more skills and experience,” says 35-year-old Evi. “We should appreciate every success and improve with each failure.”
As a one-time business development manager with Gaming Labs International (GLI) in Holland, she has rock steady experience of the demands of new business acquisition, technical compliance, certification and licensing procedures in regulated markets.
“A lot of people in our industry don’t really know what they are talking about,” she notes, wryly, speaking to iGaming Future via Skype from TVBet’s Poland office.
Ukraine: Big Risk, Big Opportunity
Every opportunity carries an element of risk. The greater the risk, the greater the opportunity, argues Evi.
Take Ukraine, for example.
“We all know the country is living through hard times. The whole world is watching. You may think the future is very risky but it has good potential.
“If corporate tax rates here in Poland at 21 per cent are much lower than elsewhere in (western) Europe and labour costs are 25 per cent lower then maybe in Ukraine they are 50 per cent less.
“The online market in Ukraine was only regulated in 2021 after several years of development.
“But there has been direct foreign investment from a number of companies,” she says, citing slot machine manufacturer International Game Technology (IGT) and Cloud and Agile Transformation agents Symphony Solutions, from Holland, as examples.
So it would appear–that to stretch the old adage that only “Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Mid-day Sun”—our iGaming heroine Evi Antonakos and a goodly company of other intrepid betting industry troopers are happy to brave the odds and seek their fortunes under the nose of the Kremlin bear.
In 2018 Poland’s betting market was worth an estimated €1.82 billion (£1.52bn/US$2.06bn). Two years later it exploded to €5 billion and counting (£4.17bn/US$5.66bn).
Ukraine, population 44 million, six million people more than Poland, promises the same return – if only Mr Putin keeps the handbrake on those tanks revving at the border.
And if not, then Evi and her colleagues at TVBet have equally daunting, market-specific, difficulties and opportunities in their emerging business investments in Africa and Latin America.
Fortune, after all, favours the brave.
Just ask Mr Soros.