Russian Anti-Poker Bill to Target Payment Processors

In a move intended to reign in its illegal online gambling market, Russia’s Ministry of Finance has now introduced an anti-gaming bill that instructs financial institutions and payment processors to block any transactions taking place between Russian citizens and international online gambling firms.
In 2009, Russia prohibited gambling outside of a handful of designated gambling zones, while in 2013 the country’s law was changed to allow gambling addicts to be ruled as “incompetent”. Nevertheless, Russians have still continued to access online gambling sites in large numbers, and according to estimates, Russian Federation citizens currently gamble around $3 billion annually on the internet.
If passed into law, the piece of legislation could have a similar dramatic impact on the country’s online poker market as the USA’s Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) did back in 2006. After all, Russia’s love affair with poker continues to grow each year, with estimates stating that 20% of Russians play poker online, and account for around 8.4% of PokerStars‘ overall liquidity pool. As Russian poker player Maxim Katz explains:
“In particular, poker went underground after the ban. The game did decline, but not for long.”
Of course, Russia receives no tax benefits from grey market operations, but with so much money at stake, some experts have advised declaring poker as a “game of skill” and subsequently legalizing the industry. One such advisor is Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, head of the World Chess Federation (FIDE), who commenting on the matter, stated:
“There are no reasons that it should be hidden and illegal. I’ve prepared my proposals concerning legalisation of online poker in Russia and have presented them to the Russian government. And I am working together with the government in order to allow online poker to become an intellectual sport in Russia.”
In addition to being the FIDE president since 1995, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is also a wealthy business man who has known influence with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

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