Russia on the Brink of Country-Wide, Legalized Online Poker?

ivan demidov 29385
Former PokerStars pro Ivan Demidov

Would it have ever crossed your mind 20 years ago (or 10 or 5) that one day Russia would be closer to country-wide, legal online poker than the United States?

That appears to be the bewildering and frustrating scenario, according to Business Insider contributor Robert Carmona-Borjas, who says the Russian government is on the brink of declaring poker a game of skill and revolutionizing its online poker market.

While US online poker legalization plods online in uncoordinated, State-driven fits and starts observers in Russia says the nationwide move could come "within months."

Recognizing the inevitability of Russians participating in online poker and circumventing any state ban, Moscow plans to "license, regulate, and tax online gambling operators" and return the cash flow back into the National budget.

20 Million Players, 8.4% of Players on PokerStars

As anyone who has played on PokerStars knows Russians make up a gigantic part of the global poker market.

Anatoly Filatov 0860
Welcome news for FIlatov?

Business Insider quoted lawyer Alexander Zakondyrin as saying they make up as much as 8.4% of the total players on PokerStars. A recent poll also suggests up to 16% of the entire population enjoys playing online poker.

The possible tax influx, then, is substantial.

“Russians play poker, but their money goes abroad,” Zakondyrin said. “In the crisis situation, low oil prices and sanctions against Russia, which excludes the use of foreign debt markets, Russia’s budget needs additional income.”

Plenty of logistical obstacles still remain, including maintaining data servers inside Russia and requiring full financial disclosure from players, but the feeling among insiders is the decision has been made to push forward regardless.

“In my opinion, conceptually the decision to legalize online poker has been already made by the Russian government,” says Zakondyrin.

Read the full report at Business Insider here.

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