he bill, introduced by United Russia’s Ivan Savvidi, proposes fines between us$16.1 and us$ 64.6 for people gambling outside of the official gambling zones using mobile networks and Internet, meaning that online casinos and poker will be illegal in Russia. “Previously the law only concerned organisers of gambling, and now the gamblers themselves will also be responsible,” Savvidi told Gazeta.ru.
Online gambling is thought to be especially tempting to the underage, who can be subjected to pressure from the outside due to their age, says the bill’s explanatory note.
A second bill tries to define illegal slot machines more clearly in order to close various loopholes. “I have been looking for a definition of slot machine for a long time and finally found it,” the author of the project member of Federation Council Alexander Pochinok told Gazeta.ru. “It is the most important part of my bill.” If the amendments are accepted, using of these machines will be banned.
“People are trying to escape responsibility by using machines that are capable of doing everything that is banned by the law,” said Irina Tulubyeva of legal firm Tulubyeva, Osipov and partners.
Tulubayeva think the new fines are the right way to go. “If the gamblers know that they will pay a fine, there will be fewer of those willing to play. And they are becoming partners in crime, even though the main punishment will still be given to the organisers,” she said.
The deputy executive director of Russian gambling business development association Samuil Bender disagrees. “We have to judge what causes damage to someone, and a man who comes and spends his own money is not a criminal,” he told Gazeta.ru. Reaction from Internet users on the online gambling ban are also mixed.
After the casino ban was introduced in July 2009, many establishments simply changed labels, but keep operating as elite and lottery clubs, while the number of computer clubs in Moscow rose from 23 to 98. These clubs were providing access to online-casinos as information services.
The new bills are an answer to Dmitry Medvedev’s call to curb illegal casinos in Moscow. On December 1, central administrative area prefecture announced that 78 pseudo-lottery clubs were closed and 3000 units of equipment were confiscated. However, there are still 90 lottery clubs in the area and 90 % of them are thought to operate illegally.