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Russia Adds Poker to Forbidden Casino Gambling List

Authorities in Russia abruptly reversed existing policy and declared poker to be as illegal as other forms of casino gambling.

For months before the Russian ban on casino gambling went into effect, gaming operators speculated that they would have to switch to poker rooms to keep their businesses viable, as poker is not considered illegal gambling in the country. Now that the ban is implemented and many clubs have switched to poker, authorities are saying a mistake has been made and poker is also illegal.

The minister of sports, tourism, and youth politics, Vitaly Mutko, says that poker is not a sport, and was incorrectly catalogued as one in 2007.

“The decision about accepting a sport into the list should be made by a ministerial commission and not by the leadership of [the Federal Fitness and Sports Agency," Mutko told the Moscow Times.

The suddenness of the decision and the announcement weeks after the casino ban went into place makes some experts on Russia think this is another unilateral decision by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Putin is deemed responsible for the casino and gambling crackdown, which has left hundreds of thousands unemployed.

Samuil Binder, deputy executive director of the Russian Association for Gaming Business Development, told the New York Times that the abrupt ruling and reversal demonstrates the haphazard and confusing gaming situation in Russia.

“It’s hard to understand the logic and decisions of dilettantes,” Mr. Binder said. “We have a really silly situation in Russia;  it is total chaos.”

The European Poker Tour was scheduled to conduct a tournament in Moscow in August, a prospect now looking highly unlikely.

Published on July 23, 2009 by MattMiller

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