Online gaming operators serving gamblers in Russia might consider treading very lightly. The country’s central bank is reportedly targeting the online gaming segment with new controls that make it difficult for gamblers to cash out or place wagers and, while the bank’s end game isn’t totally clear, there are plenty of plausible theories. Given the fact that gamblers have lost access to virtually all online gambling-related payment channels, except for Bitcoin (BTC), there seems to be a definite and concrete plan unfolding.
Inside Asian Gaming reported on some news coming out of the Russian business media source The Bell, which indicates that the country’s central bank is looking to thwart illegal online casinos and sportsbooks that are accessible in Russia. The past couple of months have seen a number of payment solutions, such as Qiwi and Yoo.Money, that have had their ability to send or receive cross-border transactions completely blocked, and ten financial and payment solution companies have reportedly been fined. Others, including Fintekh and Onego, have seen Russian authorities cancel their business licenses.
The Bell reportedly did a little undercover investigative work and was able to confirm that it is now possible to place bets with some of the largest online casinos only with BTC, not with any other payment method. The news source tested its theory on Admiral777, Gaminator and JoyCasino and, at all three, no Russian bank-issued cards (the test included cards from Sberbank and Tinkoff) or online payment solutions were accepted, only BTC.
This is an interesting development for several reasons, including the fact that there have been rumors of Russia considering a switch to crypto in order to thwart international sanctions. In addition, given the fact that crypto is nowhere near as anonymous as some would like everyone to believe, it is plausible that authorities will be able to track the source of transactions to determine where crypto can be found in the country. Since crypto addresses can be traced, it also becomes a great way for Russia to uncover any other platforms casino operators may have attempted to launch under the radar. The country might be attempting to destroy an underground online gambling market that is said to be worth well over $20 billion annually.
As is usually the case any time too many restrictions are implemented, other solutions have begun to pop up for some Russians looking to gamble online, as long as they have pockets that are deep enough. In cities such as Moscow or St. Petersburg, for the right price, some operators now offer front-door service, arriving to pick up the deposit money in cash so the users can continue to hit the virtual tables, slots and sportsbooks.