Russian government officials signal shift in online poker stance, may move towards regulation

11 August 2015
Russian authorities may be aiming to reclassify poker as a game of skill and regulate online poker in order to generate tax revenues to fund the state's sporting ventures.
In July 2014, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov commissioned a study to assess whether or not poker is a game of skill. Last week, Russian news outlet Interfax reported that a meeting was held to discuss the results of the study, and that the study concluded that poker was a skill game.
One source, who was at the meeting, told Interfax that no decision had been made to amend current regulations to create a regulated online poker market. However, the source did say that, should the Russian government decide to regulate online poker, all servers containing Russian player data would have to be stored within the state.
These reports follow a story by Sporting News last month that Russia would begin regulating online poker in order to generate tax revenues to fund the Russian National Chess team. Sporting News reported that Russian businessman Vasily Anisimov, who runs an association of the state's lotteries, announced that a regulated Russian online poker market could contribute $12.2 million annually to the Chess Federation, in addition to funding several other sporting entities.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin commissioned a study to examine how much tax revenue could be generated through a regulated online poker market in Russia. The study found that the market would generate between $30 and $45 million annually, according to Poker News Report.
In Dec. 2014, Russia passed Bill 478806-6 in the State Duma, effectively making it illegal to play online poker in Russia outside of the state's six designated gambling zones.

Dan Podheiser

Articles by Dan Podheiser has covered the gambling industry since 2013, but he has been an avid poker player for more than a decade, starting when he was just 14 years old. When he turned 18, he played online poker regularly on U.S.-friendly sites until Black Friday in April 2011. Since graduating from Emerson College with a degree in journalism in 2010, Dan has worked as the sports editor for a chain of newspapers in Northwest Connecticut and served a year as an Americorps*VISTA, writing and researching grant proposals for a Boston-based charity. Originally from South Jersey, where he still visits occasionally to see his family (and play on the state's regulated online poker sites), Dan lives in Brighton, Mass. with his wife and dog.