After Banning Casinos, Russia Cracks Down On Poker
Players and casinos who have tried to get around Russia's ban of casino rooms were in for an unpleasant surprise as the Russian government deemed poker not a sport.
The Designated "Gambling Zones"
On July 1st, the Russian government made it illegal for land-based casinos and slot machine halls to operate anywhere in Russia except for four designated "gambling zones". The legislation was originally passed in 2006 by then President Vladimir Putin to stop the increase in gambling and his successor, Dimitri Medvedev, decided not to eliminate the law.
Since the ruling only outlawed casino rooms, slot parlors and bookmakers, many casinos re-launched themselves as poker operators. Their argument was that poker should be considered a sport and many players also started to turn to poker instead of casino games.
Poker Is Not A Sport
However, the Ministry Of Sport, Tourism And Youth Policy has cancelled poker's status as a "sport" meaning that players can get prosecuted if they get caught playing poker outside of the four gambling zones. The zones are Kaliningrad, the Primorsky, the Altai region in Siberia and the southern cities of Krasnodar and Rostov.
The Russian government touted this measure as a way to develop "Las Vegas style" regions and to bring tourism and business to these remote regions but to say that the decision is not liked amongst players and casinos is an understatement.
Furthermore, the gambling zones have not been built yet and with the poker loophole being shut, it means that 70 accredited Russian Federation Of Sports poker clubs are facing closure while players look for different place to play.
We thought that the new law would lead to more poker playing and more players for the online casino industry, but now that the government has also cracked down on poker, we can only wonder what they will do to online casino players or players who try to play poker online.