Russian President Vladimir Putin

One of the greatest poker faces of all time, Vladimir Putin is on a crusade to block Russian online gambling. (Image: Ria Novosti/Reuters)

Russian online gambling domains located both in the country and abroad are being seized by federal officials in Moscow as the government increases its policing of current anti-gambling laws.

This week Roskomnadzor, the federal agency that oversees the media, took more than a dozen Internet gaming and sports betting websites offline that were found to be in violation of Russia’s gambling policy.

According to Bookmakers Rating, a Russian site that reviews iGaming sites for fair play, the intrusion affected many popular networks including 888poker, bwin.party, Ladbrokes, and more.

The sites blocked by Roskomnadzor were immediately added to the country’s blacklist of domains forbidden to be accessed by Russian citizens.

Putin’s Had Enough

Gambling in Russia is legal in only four special designated areas.

Aside from Kaliningrad Oblast, Azov-City, Altai Krai, and Primorye, placing bets is prohibited in the rest of the world’s largest country.

Online gambling is illegal everywhere.

But that hasn’t stopped millions of Russians from accessing Internet casinos as international and domestic operators have continued offering online games in the region. “Under the law, citizens of Russia are prohibited from participating in gambling and lotteries in Russia and abroad, including the Internet,” the Finance Ministry said recently.

Russian officials have found that it’s nearly impossible to stop illegal online gambling as sites continue to pop up. To combat that reality, a new bill supported by President Vladimir Putin was recently introduced that would effectively mandate that banks stop processing online gaming transactions.

In the meantime, the Kremlin is pressuring Roskomnadzor to take action in closing loose ends on the Internet.

The agency’s broad scope of responsibilities makes it one of Putin’s most important departments as Roskomnadzor supervises and regulates communications, information technology, and mass media, three vital components to Putin maintaining media control.

Putin supporting the stoppage of financial institutions processing Internet gambling trades might come as a surprise to some after the leader reportedly considered legalizing online poker last summer.

However, like all things Putin, the unexpected should be expected.

Legalization Coming?

Not all hope is lost for Russians wishing to gamble online. In fact, some believe the government taking steps to block rogue sites in 2015 could lead to legalization in 2016.

Should the Russian Federation liberate online gaming, the first step would be to wipe the Internet free of illegal sites, then the licensing and regulation process could begin.

Putin desperately wishes to become the planet’s reigning superpower, and any chance to increase those slim odds he’ll likely take advantage. Sanctioning online gambling would theoretically provide additional revenues to Putin to be used at his disposal.

“Vladimir Putin aims to reconstitute the Russia of the czars,” Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens stated in 2014. “He wants to avenge the historic humiliation, as he sees it, that was the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

Mounting international sanctions have continued to isolate Russia from the rest of the world, meaning financial long-term stability will need to be addressed in Moscow sooner rather than later.