Operators of online poker services may have to wait longer for online poker legalization in Russia because of conflicts generated by the Ukraine crisis.
The deputy prime minister of Russia had invited proposals online poker laws two months back. Owing to the Ukraine crisis, Europe and American imposed sanctions on Russian goods, and the country responded by doing the same for American and European goods. Russia has also threatened not to supply gas, which is very important for European economy.
In August 2014, government ministries held a meeting and came to the conclusion that legalization of online poker was essential. All objections to online poker legalization, including those related to security and public safety, were dismissed. It was decided that Russia’s online poker law would have a clause that require operators to store their customers’ personal information on servers based within the country. Russia’s older gambling laws had already created five gambling zones and had restricted gambling to casino games.
The chances of Russia passing these laws are getting slimmer because of its conflicts with the West. The parliament may not approve the online poker bill simply because it will give Western online gaming operators the opportunity to generate revenues from Russia’s online poker market.
The Royal Time Group, which operates Oracle Casino, said at the meeting held in August that it has no objections to the proposed bills. Under the new circumstances, however, the company may argue that only operators holding licenses to operate land casinos in Russia should be granted the license to operate online poker businesses.
However, this may not work out in the absence of any competitor. It is true that Georgia has two online poker rooms, Europe-Bet and Adjarabet, which are both capable of offering online poker services to Russians. But Georgia does not share an excellent relationship with Russia.
Currently, the situation in Ukraine is peaceful, but this peace is not expected to last. Even if the peace lasts, the president of Ukraine has to make a tough decision. If he permits a division within his own country, he will no longer enjoy US support. On the other hand, if he permits a division, he will have to face a civil war.
Under these circumstances, the online poker community can only hope that the conflict between the West and Russia will be resolved at the earliest possible and that the economic relationship between the two will be normalized.