The fate of next month's big PokerStars EPT poker tournament in Moscow remains uncertain following the July 20th removal of the game from the list of recognised Russian sports, bringing it under the current blanket ban on gambling in Russian cities.
The Russian Ministry of Youth, Sport and Tourism announced the arbitrary reclassification with the tournament only weeks away on August 17th, relegating poker operations to four newly designated and largely undeveloped gambling zones, all in remote rural areas.
PokerStars Press Officer Donna McLoughlin told reporters that the company was still investigating the Russian ban but had no new developments to report. Satellite qualifiers for the Russian tournament have been running at PokerStars for some time.
Dmitry Lesnoy, president of the Russian Sports Poker Federation issued a statement expressing regret that Russian poker's image has been diminished by the reclassification, which could see the cancellation of the EPT Moscow
"It will be a great pity for us if Russian poker stars move abroad to play under the flags of other countries. But we have to accept the inevitable," he said.
Samuil Binder, deputy executive director of the Russian Association for Gaming Business Development, said that the decision to no longer classify poker as a sport underscored the haphazard regulation of Russian gambling in general.
“It’s hard to understand the logic and decisions of dilettantes,” Binder observed. “We have a really silly situation in Russia — it is total chaos.”
Binder went on to reveal that the July 20th reclassification made null and void some 70 poker licences already issued to his members.