Thursday March 10,2016 : DOES LAUNCH OF PAYMENT SYSTEM HERALD AN ONLINE POKER BREAKTHROUGH IN RUSSIA?
Rumours persist that tax-hungry government may be about to legalise online poker.
Several media reports surfaced this week expanding on a story in IB Times that speculated the Russian authorities may be about to legalise online poker, and linking this possibility to the imminent launch of TSUPIS, a centralised payment processing system designed to handle gambling transactions and ensure that the local taxman gets his cut.
Rumours of impending online poker legalization by a cash-strapped government have been circulating for several months now), but have not been confirmed by the government, although eighteen months back Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, tasked the government's Economic Development and Justice Ministries with producing a report on the implications and practicalities of licensing and regulating online poker.
The announcement earlier this year by Liga Stavok that it had been awarded an online sports betting licence served to strengthen the speculation.
There are reportedly large numbers of Russian poker fans, with some studies claiming that as much as 20 percent of the adult population enjoy the game on the internet, and that 8.4 percent of the Pokerstars player base resides in the vast country. Certainly many of the international game's top professionals are Russians of great talent and ability.
In recent times Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, president of the World Chess Federation and an influential Russian businessman and politician, has lobbied for the legalization of the game, tempting government with the tax possibilities that could flow from licensing and regulation.
In one of his statements, Ilyumzhinov asserted that there are no good reasons why poker should be hidden and regarded as illegal.
"I am working together with the government in order to allow online poker to become an intellectual sport in Russia," he revealed, adding: "I support the idea that the sport of poker should be a member of IMSA. It is a sport which requires an intellect and intelligence, and psychological training."
Ilyumzhinov has also commented: "Concerning online poker and its legalization in Russia, it should be legalized; too many people are involved and are playing online. 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."
Without official comment it is difficult to judge just how valid the speculation so far has been, but there's no denying that anticipation has grown this year that movement on legalization may begin before the end of 2016.