Russia has had an on-and-off relationship with gambling. This has been dictated by the political regimes of the time. The end of Communism in Russia saw the rise of the free economy and this is the time that casino and gambling operations also flourished. By 2002, there were 58 casinos, over 2000 gaming rooms, and 70,000 slot machines in Moscow alone. The industry by then was not regulated, and it was characterised by a myriad of problems. Things changed in 2006 when the government illegalizes gambling and casino activities in the country. In 2009, the industry changed completely when the government restricted gambling to four zones: Krasnodar Krai, Kaliningrad Oblast, Primorsky Krai, and Altai Krai. To date, most forms of gambling, both online and brick-and-mortar, have been banned except of the four zones.
This situation has, however, remained a grey issue since Russia is also strategizing to take advantage of the growing gambling market in Asia. The government is trying to attract high network gamblers, mainly from China and neighbouring countries. Plans are underway to put up a major casino near Vladivostok in the Primorsky Krai gambling zone.
Currently, online casinos remained banned in Russia. This situation hasn’t stopped the masses from accessing foreign-based sites or accessing casinos in the neighbouring countries. In fact, Russia continues to be ranked among the top five countries in the world with regards to poker playing. Some of the world’s best poker players like Alexander ‘joiso’ Kostitsyn and Timofey ‘Trueteller’ Kuznetsov hail from Russia.
As part of the efforts to control gambling, the government continues to blacklist several websites gambling sites. This is not restricted to operators alone but even websites that have information related to gambling. In a Supreme Court ruling in 2012, ISP providers are required to block access to the online casino or betting sites. If they fail to obey the order, they risk losing their licenses. The whole censorship thing has, however, remained a black and white activity since the government hasn’t attempted to prohibit banks from transacting funds from foreign-based casino sites.