Poker Companies Targeted As Russia Fires The First Shots Against Online Gambling Sites
PokerStars, Bwin.Party and 888 are among the key names blocked by Russians ISPs. The instruction came on March 21st from the prosecutor’s office to the Russian federal telecommunications watchdog, Roskomnadzor, to add 50 gambling sites to a blacklist previously used to restrict websites which display other illegal content. This instruction was confirmed later by Rozkomnadozrs deputy head, Maxim Ksenzov via twitter.
Russia Blocks Gambling Domains - Sites Withdraw
On the 11th April, further amendments were made adding more companies and domains. This sparked the withdrawal of sites from the Russian market. Betfair, who run their poker room through the iPoker network, were the first to take the decision to “cease acquiring” new Russian customers, removing all Russian marketing and links from their site. Unibet have followed in a similar manner by keeping existing players and not signing up new ones, while Everest announced they were to take themselves completely out of the Russian market.
Russia Blocks Gambling Domains - PokerStars & 888.com Stay Open
Meanwhile the poker heavyweights are taking a different view on these restrictions. The Rational Group, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, have announced it is business as usual in Russia. A statement issued confirms the main domains are blocked however the game servers are open and still able to provide games for Russian players. They also go onto confirm all player funds are safe.
888.com, which also operate a sports book and online casino, have also announced their intentions to stay open within the Russian market. Bwin.party are yet to comment although are still offering their services to Russian players and all other iPoker skins, apart from Betfair are operating as normal.
There has been confirmation that while players within Russia have not gained access the blocked companies websites as of 11th April they are still able to log in and play. This Russian ISP block comes at a time when the government is also toughening up their stance against social media sites such as Twitter.
Some analysts suggest these may be isolated incidents, although others are concerned it could be the just the start of a Russian crackdown to control online gambling – preludes to a Russian Black Friday.
Russia Blocks Gambling Domains – Crimea To Be The Next Las Vegas
While these moves pale in significance to the current events occurring in Crimea, it is obvious Russia are not completely dismissive of the idea of gambling. On 21st April, Russian president Vladimir Putin submitted a draft law to establish a fifth Russian gambling zone within that very region.
With Crimea’s budget deficit for this year predicted to be at 55 billion of ruble ($1.5 billion), it is hope such legislation will bring investment and help develop the region’s economy in addition to the gains from gambling itself. Crimean’s Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliev was reported saying on Monday, that such a gambling area "stands a good chance of becoming a competitor to such sophisticated territories as Macau, Monaco and Las Vegas,”
Despite much excitement over the long-term possibilities concerns can be heard over the short-term feasibility of such a project. Last week The Regional Development Ministry estimated such a gambling zone would bring an extra 600,000 tourists to the Black Sea peninsular, although they also stated “Revenues for the regions' budgets can be expected in no earlier than five to seven years,".