Online Gambling Laws in Russia
Russia isn't a gambling-friendly nation. Legislation passed in 2006 banned online gambling while legislation passed in 2009 banned all forms of gambling across the nation except in four designated zones. Nevertheless, Russians continue to gamble online at unlicensed offshore operators.
The Russian government also maintains a blacklist of websites that all ISPs are required to block. Included in the list are porn sites, websites that promote criminal activity and, of course, anything related to gambling. The censorship program isn't perfect, but it does make it difficult for Russians to access any form of internet wagering.
Things weren't always this dire. Prior to 2006, most major international gambling sites were accessible to Russians. There were even companies based out of Russia that offered their services to citizens. That all changed in 2006 when Russian updated its laws to ban internet gaming and restrict access to casino sites, poker sites and sportsbooks.
It is still possible to place bets online in Russia; it just isn't easy. The Russian ISP blacklist does a pretty thorough job of filtering websites that offer real money games to Russians. That list was updated again in 2014 and it now includes the likes of PokerStars, Party Poker, Full Tilt, Intertops, and many other big names in poker and gambling.
Most of the sites on the blacklist continue to offer their services to Russian players. The only problem is many of those players can't even access the websites today. This leaves it up to the player to find a way to log on.
Is it Legal to Play Online in Russia?
Individual Russians face little risk in placing bets over the internet. There are laws on the books that stipulate a small fine for being caught gambling online, but it appears that there's little interest in pursuing individual gamblers. Russian authorities are focused more on those who run gambling sites and underground betting parlors.
The biggest issue you'll face is finding a way about the ISP blacklist. As we mentioned above, the blacklist is thorough and updated regularly. Players have reported that the block does not yet apply to poker software. If you already have the PokerStars software, for example, you can still access the games and play for real money.
Players have also reported that they don't have any trouble making deposits or getting paid. This is good news, but we wouldn't count on it holding for too long. The Russian government seems determined to enforce its prohibition of online gambling.
A 2012 Russian Supreme Court ruling shows just how serious the country is about eradicating gambling. In a case that found it illegal to even provide information about gambling, the court commented that "no trace of gambling should remain on the web."
We urge all Russian gamblers to keep an eye on the news. There appear to be few risks in simply gambling online right now, but that could change. Russia has shown us time and again that it very much wants to completely eliminate online gambling.
Author: Wesley Burns
Updated: March 2015
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