Online gambling is currently unregulated in Russia, with all online gaming operators servicing its residents operating in a gray-market environment. In most countries, including Russia, where online gaming operators conduct business without a local license, it is the companies themselves at risk of punishment and not the players.
Things could be changing for players in at least part of the country. Legislators in Tatarstan, a region in central-Russia with 3.8 million residents, are attempting to take the fight against online gambling one step further by introducing a bill that, if passed, would levy fines on those caught gambling online.
According to RT News, the bill calls for players to be fined anywhere from 10,000 and 20,000 Russian Rubles ($152-$304) along with a separate punishment of 5,000 to 10,000 Russian Rubles ($76-$152) for underage gamblers. Parents and guardians for underage gamblers may also be potentially held responsible for their children's online gaming activities.
As is the case with the majority of Russia, currently all forms of gambling are outlawed in Tatarstan including at land-based facilities. The bill attempts to also tighten up live gaming in the region suggesting a hefty fine of 150,000 Russian Rubles ($2,281) for landlords that rent their establishments where gambling takes place.
"If owners or sub-renters of real estate fail to take measures to prevent gambling by renters they should be fined up to 150,000 Rubles," the bill text reads.
Some in Russia believe the law may be redundant, including pro-Kremlin youth organization Media Guard leader Kirill Grinchenko due to the lengthy blacklist maintained by the country. A gambling watchdog group can add sites at will without a court order, although gaming companies do have an opportunity to appeal such a decision.
"We are actively fighting online casinos and other websites that violate Russian laws. About 30 percent of all complaints we receive from our citizens are about such websites and access to these sites is usually blocked straight away. When owners launch mirror sites we take care of them as well,” Grinchenko shared with reporters.
Despite Grinchenko's opinion, many players continue to play online throughout Russia with the help of VPNs and Tor services, which were both discussed to be potentially banned in early 2015.
Whether or not the bill passes is anyone's guess as we have seen many bills come and go in the country to tighten gaming restrictions without becoming law. Additionally, it is believed on some level Russia is considering to potentially allow regulated online gaming at some point to alleviate budgetary concerns.