Russia Considers Online Poker Ban

A bill outlawing the playing of online poker in Russia has been passed by the country’s lower house. Online poker play would be allowed in four designated areas, but outside those areas, online players could face serious fines as well as jail time.

Russia’s State Duma (Lower House) has passed a bill banning players from playing online poker outside of Russia’s four designated areas. The bill—which now goes before the Federation Council (Upper House)—would impose heavy fines and possible jail time on illegal players.

The bill makes playing online poker inside Russia a criminal offense, except in the four designated areas. Players would face a 500,000 ruble ($7,625) fine or up to two years in prison.

Illegal operators would face fines of millions of rubles, and up to seven years in prison.

Russia had seem interested in allowing western online gambling sites to operate in the country—generating taxes for the country—but has performed a quick turnaround on the issue. Some analysts speculate that the new hardline on western gambling is designed to deflect attention away from charges of corruption in Vladimir Putin’s government.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service has fined Google $1,600 for running advertisements for online gambling sites in the country.

The fine was levied on “the distribution of gambling, their organizers and related services in the Google search engine on the territory of the Russian Federation”.

The antitrust service said it had found illegal advertisements for online casinos on the Google search engine. Russia has ordered Google to stop running the ads.