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Gambling Laws in Russia

The gambling laws in Russia are more straightforward and clear-cut than most other gambling laws around the world.

These laws make it crystal clear that most forms of gambling are illegal in Russia. There are only a few exceptions, which we explain below.

We also cover everything else you need to know about Russian gambling laws. That includes the laws that govern online gambling, land-based casinos, and sports betting.

Is Online Gambling Legal in Russia?

In 2006, Russia passed online gambling legislation that banned online casinos and other forms of online gambling.

Federal Law No. 244-FZ left no questions about the legality of online gambling in Russia. But it is difficult to enforce.

Let’s take a look at how the online gambling laws in Russia affect operators and players differently, and what has been done to enforce it.

How Russian Online Gambling Laws Affect Operators

Federal Law No. 244-FZ

Before Federal Law No. 244-FZ got passed, online gambling in Russia enjoyed an open market. Gamblers could access casino sites from foreign countries and sites operated by local companies.

This law affected these site operators differently.

Russian companies that operated online casinos were forced to shut down their sites entirely or move their operation to another country. Foreign companies are not subject to Russia gambling laws because they operate in separate jurisdictions.

Some overseas sites chose to stop accepting players from Russia to comply with the law. But most sites continued operating as usual. They continued to operate legally from their country, and they continued to accept wagers from gamblers in Russia.

No matter what the Russia gambling legislation says, the country has no right to punish companies in other countries.

So, the Kremlin had to find a different way to enforce its online gambling prohibition.

It took several years to figure out a way to enforce Federal Law No. 244-FZ. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Russia ruled that internet service providers were the solution.

The court forced internet service providers to block access to sites that were associated with gambling. It also created a regulatory agency called Roskomnadzor to enforce Russia gaming laws.

Roskomnadzor created a blacklist of gambling sites and forced Russian ISPs to block access to those sites.

The number of sites on the blacklist is extensive. In 2017, Roskomnadzor blocked almost 63,000 sites. The following year, the number had climbed to more than 130,000.

It wasn’t enough to block access to online casinos and online betting sites. Roskomnadzor bans websites with gambling information too.

Russia Domain Blacklist

We tried and failed to locate a master list of gambling domains Russia has blacklisted.

What you can use instead is their registrar. Simply follow this link, then enter the URL (sitename.com), complete the protection code (CAPTCHA), and hit Find.

The results will tell you whether the gambling website is prohibited.

How Russian Online Gambling Laws Affect Players

There are still hundreds of online gambling websites that accept wagers from players in Russia. But anyone who is actually in Russia will have a tough time accessing those sites.

Technically, Federal Law No. 244-FZ also applies to players. Anyone who chooses to gamble online can face criminal consequences.

However, the punishment for online gambling in Russia is nothing more than a small fine.

There are no records of any individual player being charged with illegal online gambling in Russia. The country is far more concerned with stopping companies that operate a gambling business.

If you can find an out-of-area casino that you can access, you can still gamble online in Russia. You just need to be aware that you may have to pay a fine if you’re caught.

Online Sports Betting Laws in Russia

Online sports betting laws in Russia

Federal Law No. 244-FZ was supposed to prohibit any form of online gambling in Russia. However, in the 15 years since that law got passed, sports betting has taken a different path.

Many of the world’s most prominent sports betting sites are included on Roskomnadzor’s gambling site blacklist.

That includes foreign sites, like William Hill, Betway, and Betfair, as well as Russian betting sites, like Liga Stavok, 1xbet, and Favbet.

The fact that Roskomnadzor includes sports betting sites on its blacklist implies that the Russia online betting laws prohibit online sports betting.

But despite all of their efforts to prevent online gambling, the laws in Russia have not succeeded.

Russia’s betting industry generates approximately $11.8 billion in annual revenue. TSUPIS, the centralized payment processing system for handling gambling payments in Russia, estimates that 65-70% of that money goes to unregulated sportsbooks.

Russia Changes Its Sports Gambling Laws

Winter Olympics and World Cup in Russia

Russia had to reconsider its gambling laws when the country was chosen to host two major international sporting events.

The country hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014, followed by the World Cup in 2018.

During these events, Russia quietly updated its gambling laws to allow widespread sports betting throughout the country.

In 2014, Russia introduced a service called Interactive Bets. It allowed licensed sportsbooks to offer online betting services.

There was a lot of confusion about Interactive Bets and Russian gambling laws. So, in 2019, officials added an amendment to the gambling legislation in Russia.

According to this amendment, Interactive Bets is the only exception to Russia online gambling laws.

Licensed sportsbooks are allowed to use the Interactive Bets service to offer online sports betting. They do not need an additional license to offer Interactive Bets.

Online Betting Regulations in Russia

  • Sportsbooks must register the domain name that they will use to offer Interactive Bets.
  • They are limited to a single domain name.
  • The servers that process the transaction must be located in Russia.
  • All online betting transactions must get processed through the Center for Accounting of Interactive Bet Transactions, or TSUPIS.
  • International betting transactions are not allowed.

According to the 2019 amendment, sportsbooks could self-regulate through sponsored organizations.

They changed that law in 2021 with a new bill that creates a new regulatory authority to oversee sports betting in Russia.

The new regulator will track all sports betting transactions. It also forces players to pay 1.5% of each winning bet to support sports federations. This fee is in addition to other gambling taxes.

Global gambling authorities have already expressed their disappointment with the latest Russian gambling legislation. It is not clear how sportsbooks are supposed to calculate taxes and contributions.

But these are surprisingly liberal regulations when compared to the other gambling laws in Russia.

Land-Based Casino Laws in Russia

Russia is not the only country that has prohibited online gambling. But, most times, land-based casinos are an excellent alternative.

The Russian laws for gambling in-person are not much different from their online gambling laws.

Casinos and gambling houses are illegal throughout most of the country. The only exceptions are designated casino zones.

Here is a more in-depth look at Russia gambling laws for land-based casinos.

Casino Zones

In 2009, Federal Law No. 244-FZ was expanded. The new version of the law outlawed casinos except inside four designated casino zones.

These casino zones were supposed to increase tourism in some of the country’s remote locations. However, that plan was poorly executed.

The four original casino zones were Kaliningrad Oblast, Krasnodar Krai, Altai Krai, and Primorsky Krai. A fifth casino zone has been approved for Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

The four casino zones in Russia.

As you can see, all four of the original casino zones are spread far apart and far from Russia’s major cities.

All four of these cities were chosen because they were underdeveloped.

Russia’s political leaders hoped that allowing these cities to have casinos would motivate investors and large corporations to bring revenue to the city.

However, those corporations could not even begin construction in some instances because these cities lacked the necessary infrastructure.

The government had to spend billions to get the roadways, waterlines, and utilities up to date. It was a long process that took years.

Despite these setbacks, casinos in these regions have been surprisingly successful.

Foreign Gamblers: The Key to Russian Casino Success

Tigre de Cristal

One reason Russia’s casinos have been successful is that they are strategically close to neighboring countries with strict gambling laws.

Tigre de Cristal is an excellent example. It took six years and more than $200 million to open, but it was the first casino to open in the Primorye Region.

This region of Russia was closed off during the Soviet era. But it is easily accessible from China, Japan, and South Korea, where gambling is not widely accessible.

The Primorye region does not have much to offer tourists. But, Tigre de Cristal is the closest casino for many gamblers.

Junket operators convince Chinese high-rollers to visit Tigre de Cristal with promises of VIP services, reimbursed travel costs, and even gambling credit.

Tigre de Cristal pays the junket operators a portion of the money they make from the Chinese gamblers.

But it is not an easy job because the city does not have tourist attractions like Macau or Singapore.

If Russia can follow through with its plans, the casino zones could offer safe, regulated casinos and support the local economy. It will require a significant financial investment, though.

Why Did Russia Prohibit Gambling?

Now that you know how Russia created strict casino gambling laws, it is hard to imagine a different scenario.

But the reality is that Russia had a massive gambling industry not too long ago. To truly understand why the Russia casino laws are so strict, you need to know what Russia was like before.

Russia Gambling Industry Skyrockets

Soviet Union gambling ban

Russia was a part of the Soviet Union from 1922 until 1991. The Soviet Union passed strict anti-gambling laws in 1928. 

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991, it ended the Soviet gambling ban. Russians had the chance to gamble for the first time in seven decades.

Between 1990 and 2005, Russia’s gambling industry skyrocketed. Moscow went from having a single casino to operating 50 casinos and more than 2,000 gambling halls by 2005.

Gaming laws in Russia at that time were limited and rarely enforced. The country tried to license casinos and collect taxes but failed.

Hundreds of unlicensed gambling halls continued to operate. The ones that were licensed still refused to pay taxes.

Russian casinos were also known for money laundering and their connection with organized crime syndicates. It was much like the early days of gambling in Las Vegas.

Casino Advertising to Russian Kids Forces Change

Casino advertising in Russia

Another issue was that there were no gambling regulations in Russia for advertising. Russian media was filled with ads about slot machines and casino games.

Unfortunately, the group of people that were most affected by all of the gambling ads were teenagers. Young gamblers saw casino ads on television and flocked to casinos.

They would crowd around slot machines to see who could win. In many cases, there were reports of kids skipping school to go to the casino.

Overall, Russia had far too many casinos and too few regulations in place. The gambling industry was out of control. The country desperately needed gambling laws and regulations.

Instead of creating regulations that would have controlled and revitalized the industry, Russia prohibited gambling altogether.

The modern online Russia gambling laws are a direct consequence of the historical events that happened just before.

History of Gambling in Russia

The current state of gambling laws and regulations in Russia is directly tied to the country’s complex gambling history.

Over the past century, Russian gambling laws have been like a pendulum swinging from one extreme to another.

Here are some of the significant historical events that have shaped Russia’s current gambling legislation.

1922 Russia joins the Soviet Union.
1928 The Soviet Union banned all forms of gambling.
1988 In an effort to increase tourism revenue, the Soviet Union began installing slot machines in hotels. They were heavily restricted and seen as a short-term experiment.
1989 The Soviet Union ended its gambling prohibition and opened Moscow’s first casino in the Savoy Hotel. It only had two roulette tables and three poker tables and was only open to visitors.
1991 The Soviet Union fell, and the Russian Federation began. This event removed the gambling prohibition. Casinos and gambling halls opened all over the country, particularly in urban areas.
1998 Russia created gambling laws and regulations to create a process for licensing casinos and sportsbooks. This law also created gambling taxes, but it was largely ignored.
2002 The Federal Sports Agency received the right to offer gambling licenses. They offered licenses with fees as low as $100 (3,180 Rubles), and hundreds of more gambling facilities popped up throughout Russia.
2005 Russia’s gambling industry reached its peak. During this time, Moscow alone had 50 licensed casinos, with 60,000 slot machines operating in the city.
2006 Federal Law No. 244-FZ prohibits online gambling in Russia.
2009 Vladimir Putin extended the anti-gambling legislation in Russia to prohibit land-based casinos outside of four designated casino zones.
2012 Russia’s Supreme Court rules that the government can force Internet Service Providers to block certain websites. Roskomnadzor is founded.
2014 Russia hosts the Winter Olympics. Interactive Bets was created to facilitate widespread sports betting during the event.
2015 Roskomnadzor publishes its first blacklist and begins blocking access to internet sites. They blocked sites with pornographic material and sites that criticized Vladimir Putin, in addition to online gambling websites.
2018 Russia hosted the World Cup, which generated more than $136 billion in betting revenue worldwide.
2019 Politicians in Russia added an amendment to Federal Law No. 244-FZ to allow online sportsbooks from licensed operators.
2021 Another amendment created a regulatory body to oversee online sports gambling laws in Russia. It included provisions for additional gambling taxes and fees.

Future of Online Gambling Laws in Russia

When you look at the above timeline, it appears that Russia’s gambling industry is beginning to swing in the other direction.

The latest sports betting amendments are Russia’s attempt to create a regulated online gambling industry but in a very limited form.

If the experiment with regulated sports betting works out, then the day may come when we see regulated online gambling in Russia.

The country needs to find a happy medium, too. Russian gambling has swung from one extreme to another for the past century.

Regulated online gambling could be the solution that Russia needs. It may take many years to convince the country’s political leaders, though.

We think that gambling laws in Russia will change to be more liberal, but it will be a slow process.

Russian Gambling Laws FAQ

Can You Go to Jail for Gambling Online in Russia?
A

Russia is far more concerned with controlling online casino operators instead of individual players.

If you gamble online in Russia, the worst punishment you could face is a small fine, but even that is unlikely.

Is Online Poker Legal in Russia?
A

When Russia prohibited online gambling in 2006, the law did not explicitly refer to poker. Many people assumed that poker was designated as a skill game, so they continued playing online poker.

However, many poker sites have been included on Roskomnadzor’s blacklist. If you downloaded online poker software before the ISP blocking, you might still be able to access it. Otherwise, online poker is subject to the same Russian gambling regulation as other online games.

What Is Vladimir Putin’s Stance on Gambling?
A

Publicly, President Putin has adamantly opposed gambling in any form. He is mainly responsible for Federal Law No. 244-FZ, which prohibits online and land-based gambling in Russia.

However, some reports indicate that Putin might have a secret gambling habit. A journalist who opposes Putin released pictures of Putin’s private residence, including images of casino table games.

What Is Russia’s Sports Betting Bill Unpopular?
A

This answer is admittedly subjective, but the latest attempt to offer regulated online sports betting in Russia is problematic. The bill includes complicated taxes, an additional fee that players must pay, and both players and operators are subject to time-consuming paperwork.

Russia may need to compromise on some of these issues if they want to offer legal online gambling.