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Report: 20 Percent Of Russia's Adult Population Plays Poker

Government Still Considering Regulating And Taxing Poker Sites

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Russia has been considering legalizing, regulating and taxing online poker for at least a year, and a recent poll showed that up to 20 percent of the country’s adult population plays the game, according to a report from the International Business Times.

The number arguably isn’t that surprising when you consider that more than eight percent of players on PokerStars, a platform with nearly 70 percent of the world’s online poker market, are in Russia, despite the game technically being banned in the country of 143 million people.

Poker was officially considered a sport in Russia in 2007, protecting its standing. However, the Sports Ministry removed it from the national sports registry in June 2009, re-labeling it as a type of gambling. Now, there is a move to again re-classify it, this time as an intellectual sport.

“In terms of Russia, it’s a dialogue that’s been going on for quite some time,” Amaya Gaming, the parent of PokerStars, said in an earnings call last year regarding emerging markets. “And I think that they see poker as a mind sport, et cetera. And the expectation is that they do regulate and issue licenses, as relates to Russia, in 2016.”

According to the IBT report, progress took a big step forward this month.

The report said that last week a “major domestic betting firm” said that it became the first company of its kind to get an official license. Additionally, “details of a new central payment processing system, called TSUPIS, have been announced,” the report added. TSUPIS is designed to record all transactions on online gambling sites so they can be taxed.

The country, which currently allows gambling in select areas, took another step toward changing its general position on betting when the country’s largest casino to date was opened last fall.