Russian government ban poker
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
In a move that sounds as if it’s come straight out of the Cold War handbook, the Russian government has removed poker from its list of official sports. The government clamped down on casinos at the start of the year but a loophole allowed some of them to remain open as poker clubs.
However, the annulment of poker’s status as a sport, implemented by the Ministry Of Sport, Tourism And Youth Policy, means that players can now be prosecuted for engaging in games except those that take place in one of four remote zones.
Russian Minister of Sports and Tourism Vitaly Mutko wrote: “We have made a change in the Russian list of sports, approved by the order of the Russian State physical training and sport committee on January 1, 2004,” adding “we have stricken poker from the list”.
Under Order 517, games of poker may now only take place in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea and 1,000 kilometres from Moscow, the Primorsky region on the Pacific coast, the mountainous Altai region in Siberia or near the southern cities of Krasnodar and Rostov, which is hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The move goes back to 2006 and legislation passed by then-President Vladimir Putin designed to stop the increasing rates of gambling addictions and weed out any criminal elements in the nation’s casino industry. His successor, Dmitry Medvedev, declared in early May that there would be no reprieve and the measures finally went into effect earlier this month.
However, the original ruling only outlawed casinos, bookmakers and slot parlours prompting many casinos to re-launch themselves as poker clubs. These argued that poker should be considered a sport, which prompted the Mayor for Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, to criticise such efforts at circumventing the law.
He told the Associated Press news agency. 'When you sit at casino and you play poker or preference, it's a casino, but, when you play poker at a poker club it's considered a sport?'
Nevertheless this loophole has now been firmly shut meaning that 70 accredited Russia Federation Of Sports poker clubs are facing closure while a huge army of players in the nation have been left wondering what to do next.
Dmitry Lesnoi, head of the Russian Federation of Sport Poker, denounced the move saying “we are in mourning”. The legality of private home games and internet poker is unclear, as is the future of the EPT event in Moscow which is scheduled for later this year. The new event was scheduled for August 17 to 23 at the Radisson SAS and was to feature World Series Of Poker main event finalists Ivan Demidov and Alex Kravchenko.
One final insult to poker players is the fact that the Russian federal programme to develop physical activity and sport is part funded by a national lottery. And surprise, surprise lotteries do not fall under the gambling ban.