Anyone thinking Russia was set to ease up on its longstanding antipathy towards gambling got a rude awakening after the country said it would no longer issue driver’s licenses to people who can’t handle their gambling.
This week, Russian authorities announced they would no longer issue driving permits to anyone suffering from certain “mental disorders,” including transgender or transsexual individuals, anyone with a fondness for fetishism, exhibitionism or voyeurism, as well as those who suffer from “pathological” gambling.
The new restrictions have come under widespread criticism from human rights activists and the country’s medical profession. The BBC quoted a warning from Valery Evtushenko of the Russian Psychiatric Association, who believes individuals who fall into the aforementioned categories will avoid seeking professional help lest they be ‘outed’ and face the revocation of their driving privileges.
In 2009, Russian authorities restricted most forms of gambling to four geographically isolated designated gaming zones (to which Sochi and the Crimea have since been added). None of these gaming zones have managed to attract any serious traffic, a fact that won’t be helped now that some gamblers can no longer hop behind the wheels of their Ladas. Frankly, we can’t think of a better incentive to gamble online from the safety of one’s home (despite those new fines).
BAN ON CHRISTMAS NEXT?
The timing of Russia’s announcement coincided with Wednesday’s Orthodox Christmas celebrations. Perhaps Russia would be wise to reintroduce the early Soviet ban on celebrating the birth of Jesus, if only to prevent future problem gamblers the state will subsequently have to ban from driving.
A study released shortly before ‘regular’ Christmas found that parents who give their kids too many Christmas presents could be setting them up for gambling problems later in life. Researchers at the University of Missouri and University of Illinois found that “children who receive many material rewards from their parents will likely continue rewarding themselves with material goods when they are grown.” Previous research has shown that adults who define themselves by their possessions are at a much higher risk of developing problem gambling behavior.
So fair warning, kids: next year, Vlada Claus is bringing each and every one of you a lump of radioactive coal direct from the Chernobyl region. Pretend it’s a hockey puck.