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Online poker regulation is likely to follow closely on the heels of the introduction of licensed betting.
TSUPIS, the centralized payment processing system established by the Russian government to handle all online gambling transactions, is expected to go live before the end of this month.
The system is mandatory for all deposits and withdrawals at nationally licensed online gaming sites. It works something like Skrill or NETELLER , and all players will be required to hold TSUPIS accounts if they want to gamble online. The system gives the government 100 percent visibility into player winnings, which it may subsequently decide to tax.
The first Russian licensed online sports betting operator will be Liga Stavok which has announced that it has been awarded a betting license.
The inauguration of online betting, together with the fiscal problems Russia faces at the moment, make the prospects of regulated online poker more likely. Should Russia legalize online poker, it is likely that players will also be required to use the TSUPIS system.
In July last year, President Vladimir Putin ordered a study of the possibility of using taxes from online poker to fund sporting bodies, including the Russian Chess federation.
This followed ministerial studies initiated by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov in July 2014. Since then, laws have been passed to authorize online betting, but poker has been treated as a separate case.
ISP and financial transaction blocking measures have been introduced which apply to offshore online poker sites, but in terms of gambling, the Russian cultural attitude is ambivalent as to whether poker constitutes a gambling activity.
Russian law to combat illegal gambling and to tightly restrict legal gambling has been strengthened under Putin, but at the same time, there has been substantial debate over poker being treated as a game of skill.
Friend of President Putin and head of the Russian Chess Federation, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, believes that poker is more akin to other mind sports such as chess than to typical gambling games.
“There are no reasons that it should be hidden and illegal,” said Ilyumzhinov. “I’ve prepared my proposals concerning legalization of online poker in Russia and have presented them to the Russian government. And I am working together with the government in order to allow online poker to become an intellectual sport in Russia.”
Ilyumzhinov is also the President of the International Mind Sports Association (IMSA) and he believes that poker should be included as a “mind sport.”
“I support the idea that the sport of poker should be a member of IMSA,” he said. “It is a sport which requires an intellect and intelligence, psychological training. I am in talks with various poker associations about it.”
It will be no surprise to industry observers if Russia introduces legislation to tax and regulate online poker sometime this year.
This article is syndicated by the leading poker industry news authority, Poker Industry PRO.