The National Geographic company no longer intends to cooperate with Max Polyakov’s company Murka and associate with its gaming products. Probable cause is the involvement of a businessman in gambling and adult entertainment business.
Nat Geo brand has already disappeared from the companies joint product – slot-type game of “social casino” for smartphones Nat Geo Wild Slots. The official reasons for the companies relations break are not reported, but presumably, the conflict arose due to Max Polyakov’s reputation and information on businessman’s connection to creation of porn studios and promotion of illegal gambling resources. National Geographic can not afford such reputational risks.
In July 2017, National Geographic partnered with the developer of mobile games Murka to create a mobile application in the form of a “social casino” Nat Geo Wild Slots using the materials of the channel Nature Geographic Wildlife National Geographic.
«National Geographic has partnered with Murka to engage audiences on environmental issues with mobile applications. This is the first project of its kind introducing National Geographic-themed content into the social casino genre», – said in an official press release of National Geographic dated July 6, 2017.
The first release of the Nat Geo Wild Slots application appeared on the AppStore on August 30.
Even then, there were rumors that instead of solving environmental problems Nat Geo becomes a promoter of gambling and of, in particular, online gambling banned in many countries of the world (including in the US). The situation was aggravated by the dubious reputation of Murka’s owner Max Polyakov.
A businessman from Ukraine made a fortune on dating sites, when being a co-owner of the dating holding Cupid plc. In 2012, Max Polyakov provoked a scandal in media and collapsed company shares, squeezed his partner scotsman Bill Dobbie out of business and resold assets. Cupid plc went offshore, the holding company was renamed to Together Networks. Polyakov remained the ultimate owner.
Since then Max Polyakov has repeatedly been involved in various scandals associated with dirty games on the market, fraudulent activities and cheating partners.
The businessman moved to the US and in recent years has positioned himself as Managing Partner of Noosphere Ventures engaged in investing in promising startups. In addition, in 2017 Polyakov’s company EOS Launcher acquired an aerospace startup Firefly Space Systems Aerospace. Despite the questions about the legality of the deal itself, an active media campaign followed, in which Polyakov was put on the same line as Elon Mask. However, a year has passed, and Firefly never took off.
Perhaps it was the media campaign that influenced the decision of National Geographic to sign a contract with Max Polyakov to develop the Nat Geo Wild Slots application. The campaign for cooperation between Murka and National Geographic was also widely covered in media.
But soon the businessman’s attempts to clean his reputation failed. Ukrainian journalists found that Max Polyakov’s official assets just cover the huge network of illegal business and the ability to legalize the income from fraud in dating, porn industry and illegal gambling.
Ukrainian media Golos published an investigation by Zaporozhye journalist Sergei Sidorov on a network of porn studios run on the basis of Ukrainian companies affiliated with Polyakov’s Together Networks. In the studios girls provided sexual services to foreigners in online chats. The chats themselves were also serviced by companies associated with Polyakov. Back in 2015, one of the offices of his companies got involved in the criminal proceedings related to the spread of pornography, as evidenced by extracts from the Ukrainian court registry. However, lawyers managed to close the case.
In early 2017, the Ukrainian police closed off several more porn studios, which journalists also associate with Polyakov. On the wave of investigations, other assets of the Ukrainian-American businessman were popped up. Among them, the online casino network Vulkan, which illegally operates in the ex-USSRcountries, Europe and the US, despite the prohibition of gambling and domain blocking.
According to l’Européenne de Bruxelles, Maxim Krippa helps Polyakov to lead gambling projects. Krippa controls the Ukrainian company EvoPlay, which managed to get a license to use the casino Vulkan brand on the Internet.
Partners squeezed all competitors out of the market and began to develop the brand independently. At the same time, thousands of “no one’s” sites of online casinos Vulkan began to appear on the network, bypass blockades and function in countries where gambling is legally banned. Given that these sites do not receive complaints from rightholders, observers conclude that the illegal casinos Vulkan also belong to Krippa-Polyakov group.
In parallel with the Vulkans Polyakov began to develop another brand – the company Murka, which develops the so-called “social casino”. In fact, these are the same slots, adapted for IOs and Android, without the ability to bet real money.
At the same time, the company played an important role for Polyakov himself. It accustomed people to online casinos and after a while, due to aggressive advertising, forced them to move from Murka to real gambling on Vulkans. National Geographic managers got in this network.
Perhaps the final decision of Nat Geo to dissolve any connection with Polyakov was influenced by a series of scandals associated with their partner, or unwillingness to become a promoter of the online casino. One way or another, the company’s executives decided that the reputational risks of working with Max Polyakov were too high, and they refused to cooperate. This step was made without additional hype and official statements. The only documented confirmation of the conflict was the official record in the history of versions of the application Nat Geo Wild Slots dated March 31, 2018:
«As of March 31, 2018, National Geographic no longer partnered with Murka on Slots on Tour. National Geographic will not be associated with the current game or any changes to the current game going forward».
The decision of National Geographic not to promote the popularization of gambling was predictable. However, the fact that it is taken right now is the close call of Max Polyakov’s major problems. Luxembourg Herald informed that Polyakov’s participation in corporate conflicts in Ukraine could be the reason for his arrest in Ukraine. However, as for today, a much greater challenge for Polyakov’s empire is the large-scale violations of American gambling legislation. Participation in illegal online gambling, designed for US citizens, can lead to multimillion fines and imprisonment. The proximity of Max Polyakov and his partner Maxim Krippa to the odious Russian businessman Konstantin Malofeev aggravates the case.