Poker's Popularity in Russia BoomingMarch 14, 2016 1:38 pm
Playing poker for money may technically be banned in Russia, but the game nevertheless continues to enjoy a high popularity in the country of 143 million people. In fact, the results of a recent poll released by the International Business Times (IBT) suggests that around 20% of the country’s 143 million residents continue to play the game. That translates into roughly 28 million Russians playing poker, and according to PokerStars at least 8% of their dot.com customers hail from Russia.
This huge following led to Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov ordering a report exploring the potential economic benefits of a regulated industry around a year-and-a-half ago. Needless to say, regulation could help the country better cope with its ailing economy, whilst funneling extra revenues towards its budge. As Shuvalov explained recently:
“Concerning online poker and its legalization in Russia, it should be legalized. There are no reasons that it should be hidden and illegal.”
Shuvalov’s views are supported by many politicians, including Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who also heads the World Chess Federation. Another influential politician who believes banning poker has done little to stop Russians playing online is Civic Chamber member Pavel Sychyov, who stated:
“We are trying to counteract the illegal online gambling, but we understand that it is very difficult to control the Internet in principle.”
Against this backdrop, Amaya Gaming has apparently been holding ongoing discussions with Russian ministers in the hope of seeing regulation approved some time in the not-so-distant future. Meanwhile, 888poker recently announced a strategic partnership with the Russian Poker Tour (RPT), and in the eventuality of regulation, the operator could one day gain significant traction both live and online inside the vast country. Until that day, the RPT will only continue to gain in popularity as it rolls into such countries as Belarus and Montenegro. Ironically, though, it will also continue to be banned from operating inside of Russia.