Three government ministries tasked with investigating possibilities
Surprise announcement of the week is a report from the Russian Legal Information Agency that First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov has instructed the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry for Economic Development and the Ministry of Justice to look into the possibility of legalising online poker.
The news apparently comes from usually reliable but anonymous government sources, according to local media outlets reporting on the new initiative.
Shuvalov's representatives have since confirmed that instructions have been given regarding an enquiry, with a remarkably ambitious deadline of July 21.
A source familiar with the discussion told the newspaper Kommersant that the government is considering the issue on request of Poker Union president Kakha Kakhiani, who based his appeal on the success achieved in international poker competitions by Russian players.
Observers estimate that if online poker is legalised it could generate additional tax revenues for the government of between 2 to 3 rubles in the first year of legalisation, rising to around 5 billion rubles within three to four years.
In October 2013, the Director General of the Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, Valery Fyodorov said that Russians do not associate poker with other gambling activities.
Polls indicate that 42 percent of Russians agree that poker is an intellectual game of skill, while 25 percent disagreed. 85 percent of online players believe that poker is an intellectual pastime.
Generally, 52 percent respondents said that people should have the right to play poker if they wished, while 24 percent were against it. Asked the same question, 84 percent of internet users opted for the right to play.
In October 2007 poker was declared by decree of the Federal Sports Agency to be a sport, but two years later the Russian Ministry of Sports excluded poker from the national sports registry and categorised it as gambling after many poker clubs turned out to be illegal casinos.
Online Casino News Courtesy of Infopowa