Image via Flickr by Chingster23
If the past has taught us anything, it’s that the legality of poker will fluctuate time and time again. The United States has been the big example in recent years, but as legislation improves in the U.S., online poker is taking a hit in russia.
On March 21, 2014, all of Russia’s Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have prevented customers from accessing over 600 gambling related websites. This includes all of the well known sites like Poker Stars, Party Poker, Titan Poker and Unibet.
The strange thing with this sudden takedown is that the order being cited as the reason for action was given almost a year ago, in June of 2013. Pokerstars.com was blocked last year in September as part of this order, but had since existed through Pokerstars.net/ru.
Another point of note is that while people in Russia cannot access these websites, client functionality is still working for the time being, which means you may not have noticed any changes at the table. This will limit the amount of new players being able to sign up and is overall a step in the wrong direction for poker players in Russia.
This blockage was largely unexpected, as it is not illegal in many jurisdictions in Russia to play online poker. What remains uncertain is whether this is part of a larger plan to eradicate online gambling in the country, or if this is simply an action taken based on existing policies.
Gaming Intelligence claims to have inside sources, which led them to write “while a limited number of gaming domains currently appear on the list, it is believed that this is the start of a much wider crackdown on online gambling,” earlier this week.
If you don’t live in Russia you may not think this is a big deal, but just as Black Friday took a toll on the poker industry as a whole, blocking online poker in Russia could have a significant effect. A smaller player base affects everyone, and it could lead to legality issues in countries that have close ties to Russia.
While there isn’t much you can do right now to support Russian players, let this serve as a reminder to get involved and support online poker in your Country whenever legality issues are discussed. Poker is a fair game of skill and should be treated as such.