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Russia Declassifies Poker as Sport; Shuts Down Cardrooms

European Poker Tour Moscow Has Moved its Event in Response


Russia has closed down all of its poker clubs.“Total chaos.” That’s how one Russian gaming official described the situation in his country. In a move that has left more than 400,000 people without jobs, according to the New York Times, Russia has officially shut down all of its casinos and poker rooms.

On July 1, a new Russian law went into effect that effectively closed all of the country’s casino and slot machine halls. Thousands of casinos had sprung up in Russia in the midst of a gaming boom, but all of them were forced to close their doors at the direction of former president and current prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Under the new law, gambling in Russia was supposed to be restricted to four specific regions of the country, but with the troubling economic times and a lack of capital costs to build new casinos, nothing has been built.

Although casinos were forced to shut down earlier this month, many of them transformed into poker clubs because under a 2007 law, poker qualified as a “sport” and was therefore exempt from the new legislation.

However, Russian officials rescinded that label this week — forcing thousands of poker rooms to shut down.

In a 2006 interview, Putin described his reasoning for the controversial move to restrict gaming:

“I — and a lot of people know about this and have heard about it — just recently sent a draft bill to the State Duma that, in accordance with my proposal, confines all gaming activities and business into four special zones allocated for this type of activity and business. (Editor’s Note: The law that would eventually pass granted those four gaming zones. Unfortunately, none of them had been established by the time all of the other casinos had to shut down.)

“Unfortunately, it is not only young people but also retirees that lose their last penny and pensions through gambling. Experts say that dependence on games and gambling is far stronger than an addiction to alcohol. This is a serious problem and comparable to what would happen if the whole country were to become alcoholics. And, of course, the government should have already paid attention to this sphere of activity and this business a long time ago. I believe that this is a civilized solution. We are going to give a certain period of time to allow all those who participate in this business to react in due time, make the corresponding decisions, and then direct their efforts and the considerable capital they already have to developing these four special zones.”

With the four zones not yet established, many outspoken critics have blasted Putin’s initiative.

“It’s hard to understand the logic and decisions of dilettantes,” Samuil Binder, the deputy executive director of the Russian Association for Gaming Business Development, told the New York Times this week. “We have a really silly situation in Russia — it is total chaos.”

The PokerStars European Poker Tour was scheduled to make a stop at Moscow on Aug. 18, but with the recent news coming out of Russia, the tour has decided to stay away from the country.

PokerStars issued a statement on the cancellation of EPT Moscow, apologizing to its players for circumstances “beyond our control” and announcing that the event would be replaced with a new tournament in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.



over 8 years ago

Putin is a REAL piece of CRAP!!!

Joe in The United States of America!


over 8 years ago

It's not a casino can be opened up just anywhere in the U.S. I'm curious as to where those gaming zones in Russia are.


over 8 years ago

Sounds like the Russians have figured it out.


over 8 years ago

Now if they would just figure out a way to keep all of those online Russian DONKS from stinking up our games here in the U.S. everything would be fine.