Legal & Regulatory

Online Gambling: Russia is Leaning Towards Legalizing Online Poker

January 22
4:24 AM 2016

It seems like Russia might be on the verge of legalizing online poker in the country. Russia is estimated to have approximately 20 million poker players, roughly 16 percent of the nation's adult population. Further regulations will be established, including the requirement of online poker operators to be licensed under Russian law. The operators would also be required to pay taxes.

Business Insider elaborated this possible move by Russia and why it should be considered as a good news. One member of Russia's Civic Chamber, Pavel Sychyov, stated that Russia's current ban on poker has instead driven the activity underground. Instead of stopping its people from gambling, the ban has created a market of illegal online gambling; uncontrolled and unregulated.

Sychyov also stated, as quoted by Russian local media MGER, that the authorities are trying to deal with illegal gambling online, but they are aware of the difficulties to control the internet. He even added, "Controlling the activities of illegal gambling on the internet is virtually impossible. All of them are registered in foreign domains and the closure is reduced to zero."

Maxim Katz, Moscow municipal councilor which is also an internationally known professional poker player also shows his agreement with the move. He suggested that the Russian authorities create conditions that would allow operators to make a profit and also secure tax revenue for the state. 

There is also another reason to believe that Moscow is leaning toward legalizing online poker. They turn to believe that poker is a game of skill, and not a game of chance, which makes poker a legitimate competition to be authorized. 

Pokerfuse announced that Global Poker League (GPL) that will begin in April this year would be joined by a team from Russia. The GPL is also seeking to endorse the approach that poker a professional activity which requires skill.

The process of regulating online poker in Russia around six months ago, initiated by Igor Shuvalov, Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister. He helped organized a meeting between Russian Finance Ministry officials and president of the public council of the Poker Enthusiasts League, Marina Bludyan, on August last year. In the meeting, they already discussed the terms and requirements if ever online poker becomes legal in Russia.

The process of legalizing poker will still take a lot of time and effort, and the timeline to this remain uncertain. But Russians poker players are excited and show optimism to see this change. The move could also inspire other countries such as the US who also ban online poker and online gambling in general.

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