A common complaint relating to gambling legislation in many parts of the world is that it’s very confusing. There are several regions where the laws aren’t at all explicit, and the actual legality of gambling is something of a grey area.
This isn’t an issue in Russia, because their gambling laws are perfectly clear.
Online gambling is completely banned in Russia, as is land based gambling in all but four regions of the country. It doesn’t appear that this is likely to change any time in the near future either, although it is believed many Russians do continue to gamble online.
On this page, we take a look at how the gambling laws in Russia have changed over the years, and what they mean for anyone wanting to gamble in this country.
In 1928, when Russia was under Soviet Rule, all forms of gambling were banned. This was the case until the late 1980s. Slot machines were legalized in certain locations in 1988, and the gambling ban was lifted completely in the following year.
Land based casinos began to open, and by 2002 there were over 50 operating in Moscow alone.
As the popularity of gambling rose, and there was little regulation in place, the government took steps to control the activity. In 2006, they passed a law which prohibited all forms of online gambling.
Up until this point, the majority of gambling sites welcomed Russian customers. Many of them continued to do so, despite this legislation.
In 2009, under Vladimir Putin, land based gambling was restricted to four zones: Kaliningrad Oblast, Krasnador Krai, Altai Krai, and Primorsky Krai. Gambling in all other parts of the country was banned, which remains the case today.
A ruling from the Russian Supreme Court, in 2012, took the online gambling prohibition a step further. It stated that internet service providers must block sites operated by online gambling operators, with a view to making it impossible for Russians to access their services.
Internet providers had previously refused to do this, and had even won a lawsuit brought against them trying to enforce them, but this ruling threatened them with the loss of their licenses if they didn’t comply.
Later in 2012, the Roskomnadzor was made public. This is a list which details all the sites which are deemed illegal by the Russian government. It features a number of domains belonging to international gambling operators, including some of the biggest names.
As a result, some of these operators closed their virtual doors to Russian customers.
Some operators continued to provide their services to Russian customers though, and interestingly the government hasn’t yet taken steps to block financial transactions. They do seem to be committed to preventing online gambling in any way possible however.
The Roskomnadzor also contains sites that don’t directly provide gambling services; they provide information on gambling related topics as well.
The strict anti-gambling laws make it clear that you are breaking the law if you choose to gamble online. There’s some debate about whether poker falls under this law, due to the argument that it’s a game of skill rather than a game of chance, but casino games and sports betting certainly do.
With that being said, it appears unlikely that you are facing the prospect of prosecution if you do. While the government has the right to do so, their focus seems to be on going after those facilitating online gambling rather than those that actually partake in it.
Domestic operators are prohibited from offering online gambling services and, as we’ve mentioned, internet service providers are required to block gambling sites operated overseas.
It’s this last point that makes it difficult to gamble online from Russia, although not every single gambling site is on the blacklist that internet service providers have to block.
We will report any changes to Russian online gambling legislation here, along with other updates which may affect online gamblers in Russia.