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Russia wants to fine online gamblers, ban bookies’ international subsidiaries

TAGs: Russia

russia-bookies-international-tiesA Russian state legislature has proposed fines for customers of unauthorized gambling sites, while a federal deputy wants to force bookies to shed all international ties.

On Tuesday, RT News reported that politicians in the central Russian republic of Tatarstan has introduced a bill that says anyone caught gambling online will face fines of between RUB 10k and 20k ($150-$300). The bill would also impose fines of between RUB 5k and 10k on parents or guardians who allow youths to gamble online.

Tatarstan State Council rep Rafil Nugumanov, one of the bill’s sponsors, said the bill was necessary because it was impossible to address the issue of illegal online gambling without some kind of sanction on the end user.

However, a member of the Media Guards project associated with the governing United Russia party insisted that there were already robust site-blocking efforts underway, making Tatarstan’s proposed legislation redundant.

BOOKIES’ INTERNATIONAL LINKS A THREAT TO RUSSIAN SECURITY
Tatarstan’s proposal is but the latest effort to tighten Russia’s control over online gambling activity. Last month saw United Russia deputy Yevgeny Fyodorov announce plans to amend federal gambling laws to “ban the activities of bookmakers, with foreign founders, in the territory of the Russian federation.”

Fyodorov expressed concern that even domestic bookmakers had a business structure that included subsidiaries based in jurisdictions like Cyprus or the British Virgin Islands, as well as in countries that had applied economic sanctions against Russia following the country’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine.

Fyodorov expressed concern that bookies could be transmitting Russian gamblers’ personal data to these “foreign agencies,” and warned that “certain manipulation of this data can be a tool to strike at Russia and its citizens.”

Russia’s current plan to license online sports betting operators already requires companies to base their data servers within Russia’s borders, but Fyodorov’s legislative proposal would force Russian-licensed betting firms to cut all ties with international subsidiaries, regardless of their role (if any) in the betting process.

Other stated aims of Fyodorov’s proposed amendments are to prevent bookmakers from (a) shielding the identities of their owners, and (b) shielding revenue from Russian taxes, with the latter item having taken on new urgency given Russia’s current economic crisis.

Specifics on Fyodorov’s proposed amendments have so far been scant, but regardless, his announcement appears to pour more cold water on the suggestion that Russia is planning to authorize online poker, at least, by any company with any ties outside Mother Russia.

Russian parliamentarians are facing elections this September, and the suggestion has been made that this rising tide of anti-gambling talk is simply political posturing to buttress certain deputies’ ‘tough on crime’ reputations. But their intent won’t matter if their legislation is approved.

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