Russia used to be a difficult place to play poker. Following the 2009 mass ban, the industry has been restructuring. Now, a new danger looms.
Russia has had a tense relation with foreign gambling operators. Back in 2009, the country undertook mass measures that could only be equated to what happened in the United States at around the same time, with a mass ban on all gambling activities in the federation.
This led to a panicked response from businesses that ran slot parlors and casinos, forcing any remaining operators to relocate to far-flung locations. In a sense, it was game over for the entire industry, with the 2006-voted bill finally coming into effect.
It took Russian legislators three years to enact the measures that hit a rich sector, with the Kremlin citing the morality and legitimate interest of the federation’s citizens as the key behind the introduced changes.
Knowing a bit about the history of gambling and poker in the country, we now can talk about the most recent changes happening right now, with Sberbank, one of the largest financial bodies present on the territory of Russia, officially stating that it will no longer service any payments that are directed to or from international poker or gambling operators.
This decision has had a debilitating effect on Russian gamers who have started communicating between themselves that the bank is already blocking payments and withdrawals. While it’s difficult to have an official statistic of how many gamers are affected right now, it’s worth noting that many are already looking into an alternative.
Sberbank joins two other financial institutions that are fully compliant with the regulation. Meanwhile, the regulator Roskomnadzor continues to add to a blacklist, which is now filled out with popular names of international operators, such as PokerStars and partypoker falling under the hits of the media competition authority.
In light of this move, some may question whether tournaments such as the popular MILLIONS Series in Sochi and other venues throughout Russia will be returning in 2019.
Roskomnadzor has been actively adding to the list of banned operators effectively cutting the access of gamers to their usual stomping ground.
One of the main cited reasons for the decision, other than upholding values and serving in Russians’ best interest, is the fact that an overwhelming number of players haven’t been paying any taxes on their proceedings. Even though nobody can know for sure, the estimated number is over 70%, which means that all poker players have been enjoying an unofficial tax break, which is about to change.
Meanwhile, the newspaper report has been addressed as banks stated that if there was any reason to defer blocking operators and their affiliated payment processing solutions, that was only because of delays occasioned by the Federal Tax Service (FTS), which had not handed any list to banks in the first place.
The origins of the Federal Tax Service’s involvement with the anti-gambling movement can be traced back to 2017, when the Russian Ministry of Finance proposed the blacklist which would effectively shut down any payments carried out towards o from any international gambling and poker businesses. The law also eventually passed the same year.
The measure was part of a plan to rein in a sprawling illegal gambling industry worth estimated $3 billion every year. With more operators gone and the list growing, Russian poker players may need to rethink their game.