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One year ago, Russia invaded Ukraine.

iGaming NEXT contacted several companies in the iGaming industry to learn how their teams in the country are coping with the ongoing conflict.

Amid air-raids and disruptions to internet and electricity, workers are not backing down.

How did we get here?

On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale military offensive against neighbouring Ukraine, triggering the largest war in Europe since World War II.

The death toll has reached tens of thousands, and the destruction of entire cities has caused millions to flee the country.

Ukraine has long been a vibrant technology hub for the industry, and shortly after the invasion, iGaming companies with teams on the ground evacuated staff and raised funds to support affected communities.

But one year on, and the situation in Ukraine remains dangerous, according to Ruslan Kravchuk, head of HR at Playson.

“The war has hit everybody hard, both emotionally and financially, so we have supported Playson employees across the country financially,” Kravchuk said.

Prior to the war, Playson’s games development, marketing, and HR teams, along with many other colleagues, were based in Kyiv, making it the game developer’s largest hub in terms of personnel.

Initially, Playson relocated staff and their families to western Ukraine and later to a new hub in Slovakia.

The company also supported its staff in aiding the war effort, including monthly corporate donations, as well as humanitarian aid that was sent from its hub in Slovakia to Ukraine.

Working through missile attacks

Additionally, Playson established a fully autonomous workspace in Kyiv so that employees still in the city had access to basic amenities such as heating and running water by using the company’s infrastructure during frightening missile strikes.

“Sadly, missile strikes have become a weekly norm, so we set this up to help our people,” he added.

Renana Levin, HR business partner at CRM marketing platform Optimove, painted a similar picture.

“At times, some of our staff work from an underground shelter, with bombs falling outside and frequent power outages,” Levin said.

“At times, some of our staff work from an underground shelter, with bombs falling outside and frequent power outages.”

Optimove established a team in Ukraine in late 2021, just a few months before the invasion.

“In February 2022, we were all a bit shocked by what had happened, like the rest of the world, and our Ukrainian team refused to believe that a war would break out,” Levin told iGaming NEXT.

Realising the gravity of the situation, Optimove swiftly responded by announcing a special grant to assist its team in leaving the country or relocating to safer areas.

Despite the devastating impact of the war, Levin mentioned that the company was able to find a silver lining in the situation.

As many Russian-Ukrainian projects were disbanded, more highly skilled Ukrainian candidates became available in the job market.

In the past year, Optimove has recruited 13 new employees from Ukraine.

Stability in times of crisis

Ukrainian betting company Parimatch was able to recover from the initial shock of the invasion by reviewing its strategy and restoring business processes within just one month, thanks in part to technology investments made during Covid.

According to a Parimatch spokesperson, despite ongoing missile attacks, the team has adapted to working and living in turbulent times, driven by a strong determination to overcome unforeseen challenges on a daily basis.

Moreover, the team has increased their work speed significantly due to the uncertainty of what tomorrow may bring.

In addition to the crucial need to earn a living, continuing to work offers a sense of stability to Ukrainian iGaming teams amid the current tumultuous period, many experts told iGaming NEXT.

Elsewhere, Betsson Group created an open application portal that provided a fast-track process for job opportunities and offered relocation support to applicants and their families, in addition to donating funds to various organisations.

“We also assisted in relocating employees and contractors with families in Ukraine to safer areas, providing support such as transport, housing, food, and financial aid wherever needed,” Lena Nordin, chief HR officer at Betsson, told iGaming NEXT.

Continued support needed

Daniel Heywood, CEO of B2B software provider NuxGame, said since the invasion, the company’s Ukrainian-based staff has become its top priority.

“The current situation for our team in Ukraine, is of course, one of continual concern. However, there is a determination to not let the troubles impact their life and work,” he stressed.

“Despite our personnel remaining positive, it cannot be understated that the situation is serious and increasingly dangerous.”

Heywood called for continued support and encouraged “the industry as a whole to stop any cooperation with companies or people that pay taxes in Russia”.

“We also want to use this opportunity to encourage those looking to get involved, to donate to the Ukrainian army and trusted charities,” Heywood added.

Financial support and fundraising

NuxGame has founded a charity called Freedom to Ukraine to proactively assist those affected by the war.

In a similar vein, Parimatch has donated approximately €10m to various initiatives, including support for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, partnering with humanitarian organisations, and providing aid for its employees.

Additionally, the company has contributed around €8.35m to the Ukrainian state budget to bolster the war effort.

Parimatch has also partnered with UNITED24, a state fundraising platform initiated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to enable one-click donations to Ukraine from anywhere.

Playson has diversified its help by collaborating with big charity organisations for humanitarian aid and continuing to work with organisations that assist refugee families and individuals impacted by the war.

Even small contributions can make a difference as several employee-led projects aimed at supporting the Ukrainian people show.

At LeoVegas, for example, a group of employees has made over 30 trips to the Ukrainian border to deliver essential supplies, including over 60 cars.

“Everything, no matter how big or small, makes a huge difference in such challenging times and we want everyone to pull together,” Kravchuk concluded.

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