The Ukrainian gambling market remains a challenging landscape filled with uncertainties. While the top five players are relatively well-known, the situation is quite different for lesser-known market participants. In this context, let’s explore what is known about the online casinos Vulkan and GGBet, with a particular focus on their connection to Maxim Krippa, or as he likes to be addressed, Max Krippa.
Vulkan and Vulkan TM, two online casinos, may not be among the top five leaders in the Ukrainian gambling market, but they enjoy considerable popularity among Ukrainians. However, the identity of the individuals or entities behind these casinos has been a subject of curiosity.
Max Krippa, The Conqueror of the Gambling Market
In April 2021, the Commission for the Regulation of the Gambling and Lottery Market (KRAIL) granted a license to open an online casino named Vulkan. This casino was owned by LLC “Conqueror,” indicating significant ambitions. However, the true ownership of “Conqueror” was not immediately clear.
According to YouControl, an analytical service, 99.9% of LLC “Conqueror” is held by LLC “Darloks Limited,” registered in the British Virgin Islands, with only 0.1% registered to Stanislav Rudenko, a resident of Nizhyn, Chernihiv region.
While it’s evident that the offshore company “Darloks Limited” is the owner of the Ukrainian online casino, further information about its operations is not readily available. It’s known that this company is a shareholder of GLOBAL INNOVATIONS HOLDING LIMITED, registered in Malta in 2013. The latter has attempted to position itself as a large international company, but the most recent news about its activities dates back to 2014.
Reports suggest that LLC “Conqueror” earned UAH 29.7 million in 2022, despite KRAIL’s stipulated license fee of UAH 23.4 million per year. This result might appear modest, especially considering the need to pay out winnings to players, but it seems that the owner has no intention of discontinuing the business.
Forbes-Ukraine reports that the owner of LLC “Conqueror” is also the owner of another online casino in Ukraine, GGBet, under LLC “GGBet.”
Similar to “Conqueror,” GGBet is 99.9% owned by another offshore company, this time based in Cyprus—Terasid LTD, although not directly but through GGBet Holding LLC.
Other sources suggest that “Conqueror” LLC also has a “Cypriot footprint” since it was previously associated with a Cypriot citizen, Theodoros Theodor, through the same Darloks Limited.
Forbes-Ukraine further notes that both companies are connected not only through their Cypriot associations but also through the use of the Vulkan brand. According to the GGBet website, the owners are Brivio Limited, a Cypriot-registered company, and Invicta Networks N.V., a company registered on the Dutch island of Curacao in the Caribbean Sea. As previously investigated by “Comments,” numerous Ukrainian online casinos operated or are still operating under licenses from this Caribbean island.
Notably, both companies utilize the Vulkan Vegas brand to offer their services, and businessman Maxim Krippa, who has been mentioned by three Forbes sources, is believed to be the owner of the Vulkan brand in Ukraine.
Maxim Krippa: Exploring His Business Ventures in Esports and the Hidden Capital
Maxim Vladimirovich Krippa is a businessman known for his remarkable business deals that have attracted the attention of journalists. His first major spotlight moment occurred in the summer of 2020 when an unknown company named Smartland purchased the Dnipro Hotel in the capital for a record-breaking 1.1 billion UAH. The hefty price tag was attributed to the hotel’s potential for hosting slot machines and casinos, in accordance with the legalization of the gambling market.
At the time, the official buyer of the Dnipro Hotel was Alexander Kohanovsky, the organizer of esports competitions in Ukraine and the owner of TM NAVI. It later emerged that Smartland LLC, the registered buyer of Dnipro, had its address at No. 130 Kievskaya Street, a property belonging to Max Krippa, suggesting a possible partnership between Krippa and Kohanovsky in the hotel purchase.
In September 2022, Forbes-Ukraine revealed that Maxim Krippa had acquired the NAVI esports brand from Alexander Kohanovsky. Interestingly, the Ukrainian company operating under this brand, Navi Yu Hey LLC, was associated with a company registered in the Virgin Islands, similar to Konkueror LLC, the owner of Vulkan TM. This raised questions about potential connections.
In March 2023, Maxim Krippa expanded his esports portfolio by acquiring another Ukrainian esports brand, the Maincast studio, which held a monopoly on broadcasting major esports competitions in the CIS. Despite Forbes-Ukraine reporting modest profitability for the company, it was still a significant acquisition.
However, the source of Max Krippa’s funds for these substantial investments, including the 1.1 billion UAH Dnipro Hotel purchase and the establishment of an online casino, remained a mystery. His reported incomes did not seem to justify such ventures.
To find answers, one might consider Criminal Proceedings No. 22015000000000379, which the Shevchenko District Court of Kiev examined in 2017. This case involved a group of unidentified individuals using approximately 20 different commercial entities to operate various websites and online casinos, generating substantial income from player bets.
The investigation requested court permission to search several addresses, with some of these requests granted. Of particular interest is that two firms associated with Max Krippa, Jaguar Club LLC and Brovarsky Wholesale Market, were mentioned as suspects in illegal gambling operations in 2017. Krippa owned 33.33% of Jaguar and 99.8% of Brovarsky Wholesale Market.
Engaging in the gambling business without paying due taxes and royalties could potentially explain the source of Maxim Krippa’s capital for these high-value acquisitions. As an example, in January 2023, another firm linked to Max Krippa, LLC Midal, purchased luxury real estate in the village of Kozin near Kiev for 311 million UAH.
Maxim Krippa: A Glimpse of His Online Presence
The internet is a vast repository of information, yet not all of it can be deemed reliable. Over the years, various online sources have featured stories and claims about Maxim Krippa. While these sources may contain interesting information, their accuracy is not always guaranteed.
For instance, in 2015, law enforcement officials investigated a criminal case related to the establishment of a network of porn studios across different Ukrainian cities. Notably, they uncovered one of these studios within the office of the Easy Date company, which was allegedly connected to businessman Max Polyakov, a native of Zaporozhye. In this context, a person named Max Krippa was said to be Max Polyakov’s partner in Kiev, responsible for the operational management of the business.Max Polyakov
Moreover, Forbes-Ukraine has reported that Maxim Polyakov and Max Krippa were associated as partners in the realm of online casinos. They, along with three other businessmen, namely Sergey Tokarev, Rustam Gilfanov, and Konstantin Lyashenko, had a business partnership. Following Lyashenko’s departure, disagreements arose when attempting to divide his share, leading to a legal dispute in the British Virgin Islands. This dispute ultimately revealed the list of partners involved in their business endeavors.
There are also claims that Max Krippa had an interest in political activities. In 2015, he allegedly ran for a seat on the Kiev City Council as a member of the “Self-Help” political party, although he was not successful in securing a position. Additionally, there have been rumors circulating about the creation of a party list for “Self-Help” elections funded by candidates, with Maxim Krippa reportedly overseeing this process.
According to court decision records, Max Krippa attempted multiple times to challenge the information published about him on various internet platforms, seeking to have it declared as unreliable. However, these attempts did not result in any court decisions on the matter.
Maxim Krippa and His Associations with Russia
A central question remains: How did Maxim Krippa gain the expertise to manage a lucrative gambling business, securing substantial profits for acquisitions worth hundreds of millions of hryvnias?
Notably, Forbes-Ukraine has documented Max Krippa’s systematic efforts to remove any public references to his connection with the betting brand Vulkanbet. As indicated on the company’s website, Vulkanbet has been in operation since 2015. In 2019, it acquired a license from TSUPIS, a center for accounting transfers and bets. Furthermore, Vulkanbet employs the KIWI Bank for depositing and withdrawing funds.
Despite its domain name ending in “com ua,” Vulkanbet appears to have Russian roots, primarily due to TSUPIS, a service located in Russia, and the registration of the “Kiwi” bank in Moscow.
Historically, Vulkan TM casinos had their beginnings in Russia and were affiliated with Russian businessman Oleg Boyko’s Ritzio International company. These entities operated under various brands, including “Vulkan,” “Million,” “Metro-Jackpot,” “King,” Labirints, and City Casino, serving many CIS and Eastern European countries. In Ukraine, the company established the casino network “Metro-Jackpot,” which experienced financial difficulties and defaulted in 2009.
Oleg Boyko officially exited the gambling business, as reported by Russian media, and ventured into the micro-credit sector in Germany.
Returning to the September 18, 2017 decision of the Shevchenko District Court of Kiev, the investigation revealed that bets were placed through domain names such as www casino-velcam com, www vulkan-russia com, and www vulcanoriginals com. This suggests that the online casino network that profited from Ukrainian players had connections not only to Maxim Krippa’s firms but likely operated from Russia, using the Vulkan brand. It is notable that Maxim Krippa endeavors to distance himself from this association. However, according to Forbes-Ukraine, Max Krippa received a diploma from the Institute of Volcanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, an institution based in Russia. This presents a paradox where he wishes to disassociate from Russia while utilizing documents from that country.
An intriguing aspect is that Maxim Krippa, in a “self-interview,” acknowledged his prior employment in Russia. He worked as a sales agent in a company associated with the “Orthodox” billionaire Konstantin Malofeev’s Rostelecom. Interestingly, his father, as per Krippa’s account, served as an FSB officer, expressing a preference for his son to follow in his footsteps. However, Max Krippa opted for a less successful career as a geologist.
The Ukrainian gambling market is replete with companies that commenced in the shadows and operated in Russia until February 24, 2022. These entities now strive to erase the memories of this period. Some businesses may receive leniency, but others, like the former market leader TM Parimatch, were not forgiven for their associations with occupiers and were consequently banned from operating in Ukraine.
The fate of Maxim Krippa and his betting brands remains uncertain. It is evident that with each major business transaction, interest in his operations will intensify. The potential repercussions on his gambling and esports empire, given this heightened interest, remain an open question.