Anti-gaming legislation threatens online poker future for Russian players

  • New bill would block transactions between Russian gamers and global gaming operators
  • 8.4% of PokerStars’ player base now at risk

The future of online poker in Russia is in jeopardy at present after Russian news website RBC.ru confirmed that the nation’s Ministry of Finance has put together a bill that enforces Russian banks and payment processors to block transactions between global iGaming operators and Russian-based poker players.

The Kremlin
The Kremlin

Proposed anti-gaming bill could be ratified within weeks

The report claims that the proposed bill will be discussed by the Russian government later this week. In the event that the legislation is ratified, Russia’s Federal Task Service will be asked to generate a ‘blacklist’ of Russian individuals who gamble online and the global online gambling websites involved, before sending it on to the country’s financial institutions to use to block future transactions.

It is not the first time the Russian government has sought to clamp down hard on online gambling. Two years ago, a similar bill was introduced after President Vladimir Putin threw his weight behind the proposals. However, the bill never materialized into anything meaningful due to significant opposition from government agencies.

Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

PokerStars could lose 8.4% of its online poker players

It is believed that Russian-based poker players make up almost one-tenth (8.4%) of the player network of PokerStars, the world’s leading online poker site. Russia in general has been a key battleground for the growth of poker in recent times, fuelled by impressive successes at the World Series of Poker for compatriots Vitaly Lunkin and Andrey Zaichenko.

Nevertheless, the legalization of online poker could be a more realistic outcome from Russia’s latest bill proposal as the government seeks to increase its tax revenues in the same way it is dealing with sports betting.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov of the World Chess Federation, said last year: “It should be legalized; too many people are involved and are playing online.

“There are no reasons that it should be hidden and illegal.”

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